Latin America and the Caribbean is aging at a rapid pace. Today, 11% of the population is over 60 years old. By 2035, the proportion of older adults will have doubled. This phenomenon implies greater care needs for a larger population of older adults facing dependency. This means some people will have difficulty performing basic daily life activities such as bathing, eating, or getting out of bed. Moreover, in many cases people will face additional health challenges due to the increase in chronic diseases. In other words, the prevalence of dependence – the limitations that people face in their daily lives – in the region will grow substantially.
Are Governments Ready for an Aging Population?
Today 8 million people over 60 years of age in Latin America and the Caribbean are dependent and require long-term support services. It is estimated that this figure will increase to 27 million dependent older adults by 2050. And it could be even higher if the incidence of chronic diseases increases. The big question is, how are we going to adapt to these changes quickly and efficiently?
Governments in the region must urgently think about how to design and introduce a care system to address dependency. And, in case they have already started this process, they must decide how to strengthen and expand it to prepare for what is coming.
Korea, a country where people’s life expectancy is ever-growing and where more older adults in proportion to the total population live, is a good example of how to implement long-term care and dependency care policies.
In 2008, Korea initiated the implementation of a dependency care system financed with a social insurance plan for elderly people facing dependency. Ten years after its inception, the system has been strengthened and offers a greater number of services to serve a growing older adult population.
The National Health Insurance Service (NHIS) is the institution in charge of this system. Adults 65 and over or those under 65 with geriatric diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, or cerebrovascular diseases, can join the system and access the benefits according to the degree of dependency they face. Currently, about 77% of the elderly with care needs in the country are covered (approximately 713 000 people).
The services provided include, among others:
- Home care (visits by nurses, day and night care, short-term respite care and equipment)
- Care in institutions (residences and communities)
- Cash transfers for special cases (for example, extended stays in hospitals).
The system is financed by contributions from the insured and subsidies from the national and local government. These contributions represent 7.38% of all contributions made to the health system; that is, the equivalent to 6.24% of the monthly salary, and the burden is shared by the worker and the employer. Beneficiaries must contribute to their care plan, when they have the resources to do so. Additionally, public insurance reimburses 85% of the cost of home care and 80% of the cost of care in institutions.
The following video shows the achievements made so far by this long-term care model, which accompanies older adults and ensures that they have a healthy life. For example, there are over 20,000 service institutions and more than 360,000 workers in Korea to serve a population of almost 500,000 seniors.
If you want to know more about the design and implementation of the long-term care system in Korea, as well as the new challenges it faces, join us for the Webinar “Ready for an Aging Population? – The case of Korea’s long-term insurance“. The event will take place on June 7th, 2019, from 11:00am to 3:00pm (EST / UTC -5). Click here to watch the full video and see details from the event.
To learn more about trends, advances and challenges of aging at the regional and international level, visit the Inter-American Development Bank’s new platform, Panorama of Aging and Long-term Care. There you will also find information on Korea’s experience.
Do you think your country is ready to serve its older adult population? Share your opinion in the comments section or mention @BIDgente on Twitter.