Until the end, the details were wrestled with: On Friday, after weeks of debate, the Bundestag passed the care reform of Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach. The SPD politician defended the bill before the vote in the Bundestag. For relatives who take over most of the care in Germany, "another significant improvement" had been achieved. The subsidies for nursing home residents would also be further increased. Lauterbach admitted, however, that "this law is not a perfect law." Further steps are necessary.
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Criticism came from the opposition, social associations and employers. CDU MP Diana Stöcker complained that it was not a reform, but a meager "on-sight driving". Employers' President Rainer Dulger said F.A.Z.NET that the Bundestag had missed the opportunity in the parliamentary procedure to pull the necessary emergency brake on the care reform. "The planned long-term care reform will make long-term care insurance more expensive and its long-term financial viability will be made even more difficult."
What exactly was decided – an overview of the most important points.
What's in store for contributors?
Employers and many employees will have to pay higher contributions from 1 July. The general contribution rate, which employers and employees each finance in half, will be raised by 0.35 percentage points to 3.4 percent – an increase that Lauterbach has repeatedly described as "moderate".
The employer's share will thus be 1.7 percent instead of the previous 1.525 percent. For employees, the contributions are staggered according to the number of children, which means that the ministry is implementing a requirement of the Federal Constitutional Court, according to which the care contributions must take greater account of the educational effort. In the future, childless people will pay 2.3 percent and employees with one child 1.7 percent. From two children, the contribution is reduced by a further 0.25 points up to the fifth child – provided that the children are under 25 years of age. From the second child onwards, insured persons are therefore relieved despite the general increase.
Under certain conditions, the Federal Government will be empowered to increase contributions by ordinance in the future in order to be able to react quickly to financial difficulties of long-term care insurance. So far, a Bundestag resolution is necessary. However, the Bundestag will continue to be involved in the future by being able to amend or reject the ordinance.
What are the benefits of the higher contributions of the loss-making long-term care fund?
The Federal Ministry of Health estimates the additional revenue from the increase in the contribution rate by 0.35 points to 6.6 billion euros annually from next year. According to Lauterbach, 4 billion euros of this will flow into higher benefits for those in need of care. The remaining amount will be used to close the structural financial gap in social long-term care insurance, which the minister recently put at 2.6 billion euros. According to Lauterbach's assessment, the social long-term care insurance comes with the reform well through the legislative period. Long-term care funds and associations criticize that the financing will only be stabilized in the short term with the reform.
What will change for people who are cared for at home?
The reform aims to strengthen home care. The reason: Around five million people in need of care live in Germany – and according to the Federal Statistical Office, five out of six of them are cared for at home.
The law stipulates that, firstly, the care allowance will be increased by 5 percent at the beginning of next year. Depending on the degree of care, this care allowance currently amounts to 316 to 901 euros and is transferred to those in need of care by the nursing care fund if they are cared for by relatives or friends. As a rule, people in need of care pass on the care allowance to their relatives. It had not been increased since 2017.
Secondly, the amounts in kind for the use of an outpatient care service are also to be increased by 5 percent at the beginning of next year.