Demand for Long-Term Care in Germany Has ‘Skyrocketed’ in Recent Years

Germany

The number of people in need of medical care in Germany rose much faster than expected last year, according to Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. 

“For demographic reasons, an increase of only around 50,000 people would have been expected in 2023. But the increase is actually over 360,000,” Lauterbach, a Social Democrat (SPD), told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland news agency on Monday.

“We don’t yet understand exactly why this is the case,” Lauterbach said, but there is “an acute problem” in long-term care insurance.

“The number of people in need of care has exploded in recent years,” said Lauterbach.

The minister said the issues confronting the long-term care system potentially stem from two generations – the baby boomers and their parents – both seeking care at the same time.

Researchers have previously forecast that the number of people in need of care in Germany would grow from around 5 million today to more than 6 million within the next 15 years, although figures vary greatly by region due to demographic trends.

According to a February forecast from the Federal Statistical Office, there will be a shortage of between 280,000 and 690,000 workers in the care sector nationwide by 2049.

That will put an immense strain on Germany’s long-term care insurance system, Lauterbach said. Current contributions alone cannot maintain the level of benefits.

Last July, Germany’s centre-left coalition government decided to increase contributions for those without children to 4% and for those with one child to 3.4%.

At the beginning of May, company health insurance funds sounded the alarm after projections showed that the long-term care insurance system is facing a deficit of €1 billion ($1.1 billion) this year and €4.4 billion by 2025.

Maria Loheide, director of social affairs at Diakonie Deutschland, the social welfare arm of the mainstream Protestant churches in Germany, warned earlier this month that health insurance companies and local authorities weren’t doing enough to address rising costs due to wage increases.

“If the money from care insurance is no longer sufficient, the care of people in need of care will be at risk,” Loheide told dpa.

Nevertheless, there is no immediate remedy in sight. A comprehensive financial reform in the care sector is unlikely to be achieved before the next parliamentary elections in 2025, said Lauterbach.

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An inter-ministerial working group is “unlikely to come to a uniform recommendation,” he said, citing differences of opinion between the three parties in the coalition government.

The conservative opposition CDU/CSU bloc criticized Lauterbach’s comments as an admission of failure and urged action to address the financial problems in long-term care.

“If the coalition partners can no longer find solutions because their views are too far apart, then they should give up their claim to shape the healthcare sector,” said the CDU’s Tino Sorge.

 

By Basil Wegener and Michel Winde, dpa

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