TALLINN - On Monday, the European Commission published its country-specific recommendation for the upcoming half-year with the Commission's recommendation for Estonia being to improve the availability and quality of long-term care.
The Commission highlights the importance of ensuring sustainable funding and integrating social services and health care services. The Commission also recommends to expand the unemployment insurance benefit to include short work spells and non-standard forms of work.
In the Commission's assessment, Estonia's social security network has improved; however, the financing of long-term care being fragmented is a significant bottleneck that has resulted in a very high share of costs being paid by those who need care. Estonia places second in the EU with regard to out-of-pocket payments for long-term care, whereas public sector spending on long-term care was only 0.4 percent of GDP in 2019. The EU average meanwhile was 1.7 percent.
A comprehensive reform of long-term care would ensure access to affordable and quality formal long-term care, according to the Commission. Such a reform could help those in need by focusing on efficient and sustainable funding for long-term care, access to integrated care services, setting quality standards, and ensuring sufficient and skilled workforce.
Estonian Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo said that there are several areas in the development of the social field where complex forward-looking decisions have to be made.
"As a society we are headed towards a care crisis, which is already being experienced by many families today -- a situation where the savings of neither an elderly person nor their family are sufficient for ensuring a dignified retirement and the next of kin must make stark choices between their children and grandparents," Riisalo said.
The minister noted that the contribution of Estonian people when it comes to paying for the care of their family members has skyrocketed by 228 percent over the past decade.
"Solutions are needed for families for funding long-term care that would ensure the availability of care services for everyone who needs it. As an important step, we've made grandchildren except from the obligation to pay for the care of their grandparents. The next issue that needs to be resolved is financing for care home services, and I am planning to bring the necessary legal amendments together with applications for funding before the government this fall," she said.
In 2021, long-term care services and assistance were provided approximately in 71,100 service places, but the actual need is around 120,000 service places. The need for the services is growing and, according to estimates, over 150,000 people will need the services in 2030.