HANGZHOU, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Lu Yonglin, 79, now has care workers to help him look after his paralyzed wife thanks to long-term care insurance introduced in October in Jiashan County of China's Zhejiang Province.
An elder care provider comes to Lu's home minutes after he makes a call to an old-age service company. One hour of a care package, which includes personal hygiene services and clinical care, costs between 20 yuan (about 3 U.S. dollars) and 80 yuan, and will be covered by his wife's insurance.
Each month, his wife, Zhu Aiying, who receives home-based care, gets 300 yuan in cash and electronic coupons worth 300 yuan to cover her care costs.
"We have a low retirement salary. The insurance helps a lot to cover my wife's care costs," said Lu.
Lu's wife is one of the first 299 beneficiaries since Jiashan introduced long-term care insurance in October.
She has been paralyzed and bedridden since 2011, when she was diagnosed with encephalic angioma. Lu takes care of his wife as their children work in distant cities.
"It is a heavy burden for me to provide daily care to my wife as I am getting older," said Lu.
Jiashan has an aging population, coupled with surging chronic diseases. The county has 108,000 people aged 60 and older, with at least 4,000 of them partially or fully disabled.
"It is the right time to introduce this new social insurance program as a preemptive approach," said Tao Wenzhou, deputy director of Jiashan Civil Affairs Bureau.
Currently, China has five social insurance programs: elderly care, health care, unemployment, work injury and maternity. They are run by the government and premiums are paid by the individual and the employer on a compulsory basis.
Long-term care insurance is expected to become the sixth.
In 2016, Jiashan became one of the pilot cities to implement long-term care insurance in Zhejiang.
Urban and rural residents who are recipients of health care insurance can participate in the long-term care insurance program. Those who have a difficult time living independently due to age, illness and disability and will not recover after six months of medical treatment can become recipients of the long-term care insurance.
Jiashan set up a committee to assess recipients according to various levels of dependency. So far, the committee has completed assessment of 896 people, with 689 severely disabled.
The insurance premium is 120 yuan annually for each person, with individuals paying 30 yuan and the Jiashan government providing 90 yuan. Currently, Jiashan has collected more than 52.2 million yuan in insurance premiums.
"Elderly who choose to receive care services in their homes, nursing or medical institutions will be given different subsidies," said Tao.
The attempt in Jiashan mirrors that of China in general.
The aging of China's population is accelerating. By the end of 2016, the country had 230 million people aged 60 and older, with at least 40 million of them partially or fully disabled.
Only children in many families face double pressure in terms of manpower and time to take care of their elders, who need long-term care, independently on their own.
To cope with ever-increasing needs for long-term care, in July 2016, China released a guideline to launch the long-term care insurance program in 15 pilot cities, including Shanghai and Guangzhou.
It aims to form a long-term care insurance system adapted to China's actual conditions by 2020.
"The program proved helpful in addressing the long-term care demands of the elderly with disabilities," said Lu. "A future scale-up of the program nationwide is expected."