Posted June. 05, 2017 07:16,
Updated June. 05, 2017 07:33
President Moon Jae-in declared a system that requires the state to take responsibility for dementia patients that includes provision of 90 percent of the costs for dementia treatment as the third in his ‘the president approaching the people’ policy series on Friday. No one will oppose a policy that is designed to establish a system in which the state takes care of dementia patients, and thereby gives practical benefits to them and their families.
Dementia is a dark side of the aging population, with one person getting diagnosed as dementia patient every seven seconds worldwide. Korea will see the number of dementia patients jump from 725,000 this year to 1 million in 2024. Dementia, which causes loss of memory and judgement ability and entails depression, is hard to cure, and only progression of the disease can be slowed. Since no one knows what will happen if a dementia patient is left alone, the disease always requires a caregiver on standby, but the patient does not even recognize his or her own family members, destroying the life of the entire family. For this reason, people consider ‘dementia to be more dreadful than cancer."
Considering these characteristics, it is natural that dementia be considered the top priority in health policy. The new policy includes expanding the scope of dementia patients that can receive state support from severe patients to patients with light symptoms, and increasing the number of dementia assistance centers from 47 to 270. Given that many dementia patients are not receiving state support at present due to strictness in classification of dementia patients, it is necessary to lower the threshold requirements needed for a patient to be entitled to long-term nursing insurance. President Moon displayed his strong commitment to the policy of dementia patients as state responsibility by including 200 billion won (178 million U.S. dollars) of related budget in the proposed extra budget for this fiscal year. It is also urgently necessary to improve treatment of and compensation for nursing assistants who take care of dementia patients.
However, the government needs to fend off possible moral hazard that can arise from the drastic expansion of assistance in a short period of time. Nursing care centers that are paid nursing insurance payment from the national insurance program in proportion to the number of enrolled patients only house patients, rather than providing patients with exercise and rehabilitation assistance, and frequently siphon off insurance payments by exaggerating the number of nursing assistants. Human rights violation among dementia patients, which is often committed at nursing care centers, should also be prevented. The types of home care services for dementia patients including 24-hour protection should be diversified, and their quality be enhanced. If the number of beneficiaries from the system of dementia patients as state responsibility surges, the financial soundness of the long-term care insurance service will also inevitably deteriorate, and the government should persuade the public about the need to hike state health insurance premiums.