Insurance for caring services sought in rapidly aging capital

Updated: 2015-11-02 08:07

By Shan Juan and Wang Xiaodong(China Daily)

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A basic insurance policy to cover the costs of nursing care for ailing residents is urgently needed to cope with the rising demand in Beijing as the city's population rapidly ages, a health expert said.

A lack of insurance means most patients with chronic or terminal diseases remain in hospitals, sometimes for months, even though expensive nursing services are not covered, said Yang Yingna, an official at the Beijing Geriatric Hospital, which specializes in caring for the aged.

"Lack of basic nursing insurance makes nursing services unaffordable for many elders," Yang said.

"It is also a major cause of the severe shortage of qualified nursing homes for seniors with chronic diseases or those who have lost some or all of their ability to live independently."

Only a few companies in Beijing provide insurance for nursing services, she said.

While China does not currently offer such insurance, it is considering introducing a government-held nursing insurance program to ensure quality and sustainable care for aged residents who are unable to live independently due to illness or disability, said Du Peng, director of the Institute of Gerontology under Renmin University of China.

Under the proposal, people would pay premiums for a benefit they could use should they lose the ability to live independently in old age, but much work is needed before such a policy could be offered, Du said.

Beijing has between 3 million to 4 million people age 60 years or older, and the average life expectancy of the city's permanent residents is rising every year, according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Health and Family Planning.

Like Beijing, the population in many other cities in China is becoming older, posing challenges for the provision of qualified nursing services for the elderly.

Employing a part-time nurse costs about 200 yuan ($31) a day, which is not affordable for people on an average income, Yang said.

More seniors with chronic diseases would have the opportunity to obtain better nursing services if they were covered by insurance, she said.

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