New contribution levied to finance long-term care
The National Assembly has passed a much-needed bill on long-term care, determining the scope of services to be provided by the state and introducing a new contribution to finance them. It will be paid by employers, employees and pensioners.
The most contentious aspect of the bill is the 1% contribution rate levied on gross salaries and net pensions starting from 1 July 2025. Both employees and their employers will pay the fee, similar as is the case of mandatory pension and health insurance contributions.
Sole proprietors and farmers will pay a 2% contribution rate, being employers and employees at the same time.
The Ministry for a Solidarity-Based Future, which drafted the bill, estimates the cost of long-term care as determined under the law at €960 million a year. The state is to chip in €190 million, while around €620 million is expected to be raised form the contributions.
The opposition has been against the bill mainly because of the new contribution, which it says has not been agreed with the social partners.
Due to opposition by representatives of employers, farmers and freelancers the bill faces a suspensive veto in the upper chamber. The ruling coalition has a sufficient majority to overturn the veto though.
Focus on home care
Slovenia has so far not had a single long-term care system and most long-term care is currently provided by nursing homes or personal assistants.
The new law aims to change that with the aim being to allow older people to stay at home as long as possible.
The bill will be implemented gradually. It will take effect on 1 January 2024, with new services being phased in over the next two years.
The rights as defined by the law are nursing home care, home care, care provided by a relative and a cash allowance. Those eligible will be able to pick the form of care themselves.
Applications will be accepted at entry points established at the social work centres in January 2025. These will draw up a plan of services for the person based of the assessment of their needs.
If it is not possible to provide the desired form of care, the beneficiary will receive a cash allowance in line with the category of care they are assessed to be eligible for.
The bill stipulates that home care must be equally accessible without regard to one's place of residence or long-term care insurance. Long-term care at the person's home will be available from 1 July 2025.
Starting from 1 December 2025, a new cash benefit will replace what is currently termed allowance for aid and service and is laid down in a number of different laws and paid out in different amounts.
Also from 1 December 2025, nursing home care will be covered by long-term care insurance, but the beneficiary will still have to cover for the accommodation and food. When no place is available in a care home in the public network, the beneficiary will be able to get a temporary cash allowance.
Starting from next year, the beneficiaries will have the right to a relative of theirs provide care similar as family assistants do now. The relative will be able to claim compensation for loss of income equalling 1.2-fold the minimum wage or 1.8-fold the minimum wage if they care for two elderly, but they will also need to undergo training.
Another service will be e-care, kicking-in together with long-term care at the person's home. The person will carry a bracelet with a button to be able to contact a call centre.
Voices of dissent many
Apart from employers, issues about the law have also been raised by the association of social work centres. They say the bill has not been talked through and agreed with them and they do not have enough staff to serve as contact points as planned under the law.
The long-term care bill was fast-tracked through parliament and passed by 54 votes to 24 on 17 July after the government's decision to delay a similar law passed under the previous government by a year was upheld in the November 2022 referendum. The key reason was the absence of a financing plan.
Simon Maljevac, the minister for a solidarity-based future, said the new legislation ensured services for everyone, focusing on providing the same level of care at the person's home as institutionalised care.
Ruling coalition MPs underscored a stable and systemic source of financing, a boost for the public network of long-term providers and accessibility of services as the bill's key assets.
The Left said that unlike the law passed under the previous government, which opened the door wide to the private sector, the current one would have services provided on a non-profit basis.
The Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), which were in power the previous term, opposed the bill mainly because of the mandatory contribution, which they said was virtually the only thing that the coalition changed in copying their law, apart from eliminating private providers.
They are also unhappy because entry points will be created at social work centres rather than at health insurance institute units as proposed by their government, and that farms will not be able to provide long-term care, something that the previous act would have made possible.
The minister said social work centres had been checked as entry points in pilot projects, while health insurance institute units were not. He argued financing was essential to make the law feasible.