Taiwan government criticized over elderly care program

Social welfare activists yesterday criticized a government plan for a long-term care insurance program to be paid for by all citizens.
The project, which is expected to cost more than NT$50 billion a year, should reduce the burden on family members caring for elderly relatives.
Instead of hiking taxes or insurance premiums to pay for the program, the government should first use available tax revenue to set up a care structure and recruit necessary staff, said Wu Yu-chin of the Senior Citizens Welfare Alliance.
She said the government had not given enough details about its plans yet. The size of the premiums, the age at which to begin the premium payments, and the target areas of the program were all still unknown, Wu said.
Other critics have also taken the plan under fire as the latest example of the government's lack of fiscal responsibility in the face of the economic recession now hitting Taiwan. Future generations will have to foot the bill for the government's current bout of generosity, critics said.
One of the authors of the project, former Department of Health deputy director Yang Chih-liang, yesterday reproached critics for not wanting to help the 360,000 elderly citizens who needed assistance. The alternative would be to have the senior citizens assisted by one relative each, he said.
All citizens should be included in long-term care insurance because there were also children with grave diseases who needed permanent care, Yang said.
If the government wanted to use tax revenue to fund the program, it would have to raise taxes, and that was a taboo topic during the present economic crisis, he said. So there were only two choices possible, either let every citizen pay premiums for the system, or continue the present system, and let each family fend for its own elderly members.
Under current government plans, beneficiaries of long-term care insurance would mainly be people unable to perform at least three out of six "activities of daily living" by themselves.
The activities are eating, dressing, bathing, going to the bathroom, getting in or out of bed or of a chair, and walking.
The system could be expanded to include people unable to prepare food, go out and buy food, or perform bank transactions.
The government taskforce plans to have its proposal ready next June, with the Legislative Yuan reviewing it by the end of the year and a launch scheduled for 2011.