Money is a special substance for politics. It serves to attract voters, to resolve conflicts in a government and to keep conflicting parties in an alliance together. That was also the case with traffic lights for a long time. And the results weren't bad.
During the Corona pandemic, state money saved a lot of misery, the double whammy for affordable energy costs saved the local economy from crashing, and this country freed itself from its dependence on Russian gas and oil faster than many experts thought.
Somehow it should be fair, but if all our tax money is distributed. The state does not have to make the rich even richer. In concrete terms: Do companies really need traffic light tax advantages when they have made a lot of profit? VW earned 22 billion euros last year, Mercedes-Benz 20.5 billion euros, the sales and profits of the DAX companies reached new records, and inflation also filled the coffers of oil companies, consumer goods manufacturers and many medium-sized companies.
The traffic light, on the other hand, is extremely stingy with people who need it. About those in need of care. Those who live in a home have recently learned that they have to pay more and more themselves. The personal contribution is now just under 2550 euros per month, around 350 euros more than in the middle of last year.
People will soon have to pay even more. Labor Minister Hubertus Heil and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach want to increase the minimum wages for nursing staff. A commission has proposed increasing them by 16 percent by mid-2025; for unskilled workers they should rise from 13.90 euros per hour to 16.10 euros, for trained employees from 14.90 euros to 17.35 euros and for certified specialists from 17.65 euros to 20.50 euros.
This is very, very good news for everyone who works in the care industry. The job is difficult, takes a toll on body and mind, and many people quit long before they reach retirement age because they feel overloaded. If you want good people, you have to pay them well.
For those living in institutions, the news sounds less good. Because they will have to shoulder a significant part of the higher wages. This is due to the long-term care insurance, which only pays part of the costs.
The resident pays rent and food anyway. But he also pays the investment costs when a home is renovated, the training costs so that someone takes up the profession at all, and the part of the care costs that the care insurance does not cover. These items add up to those 2550 euros, and that's just the average, some pay even more.
That's a lot of money, considering that the average pension for men in the west is 1279 euros (women 789 euros) and in the east 1360 euros (women 1155 euros). Some have savings, life insurance, maybe their own apartment, but many people have nothing besides their pension. According to the German Institute for Economic Research, 40 percent of German households have almost no assets, and East Germans in particular are often poorer. They earn less and inherit less often.
There is one more problem. Many homes are in financial difficulties. They get no staff, struggle with increased prices and wages, but cannot fully pass these on to the residents and thus slide into bankruptcy. According to the industry service Care Market, more than 140 homes and 430 local care services disappeared from the market last year, in the first quarter another 200 providers went bankrupt, and rising minimum wages make the situation even more difficult. Anyone who wants to accommodate their relatives will find it even more difficult to find a place in the future.
A remedy is not to be expected. The traffic light has slightly increased some grants for the residents of the home, which is of little use against the rising costs. 32.5 percent of the residents are already applying for social assistance, i.e. basic security in old age, in three years it should be 36 percent according to calculations by the Bremen care expert Heinz Rothgang.
A problem is growing that politicians largely ignore. Older people who have always stood on their own two feet become in need of care in their twilight years because the costs grow beyond their heads. Growing old means becoming a supplicant in the future. For many, care becomes unaffordable. If you are looking for reasons why many people are currently feeling disappointed by politics and are turning to right-wing extremist parties such as the AfD, you will find a reason here.
But things get even worse. The traffic light makes the situation worse. In the corona crisis, long-term care insurance paid for a lot that the state should have borne. The homes took over corona tests, kept beds open, protected employees and residents, the AOK puts the open bill at around five billion euros. Because Finance Minister Christian Lindner refused to pay the costs, you and I had to pay. In July, the contributions to long-term care insurance rose by 0.35 percentage points to 3.4 percent of gross wages, those without children pay a little more, and those with many children less.
But Lindner did even more. He has canceled the annual subsidy for long-term care insurance of one billion euros for the next four years and is further exacerbating the plight of long-term care insurance. The matter has proceeded in such a way that the Federal Court of Auditors has dismissed Minister of Health Lauterbach. In a report to the budget committee of the Bundestag, the auditors write about its financial planning that "it is doubtful whether the financial planning can endure in this form". But a reform of care is not pending until the next federal election in 2025.
What does all this mean?
You and I can already prepare for further increases in care contributions. The residents of the home will pay even more or have to apply for social assistance, so homes and care services are restricting their offers. These are the results of a government that, mind you, wants to improve care. Anyone who sees this as a success also considers whiskey non-alcoholic.
Christian Lindner is not interested in any of that. He prefers to push ahead with his nonsense project "Aktienrente", which recently called Generation Capital. He wants to sink up to 200 billion euros into it over the next twelve years, although the project will not help young people, employees or pensioners to cope with rising costs in old age. It should primarily benefit the FDP. She wants to escape the valley of polls.
The care needs could of course be solved. Pragmatic. The government could limit the home residents' own contribution; experts speak of the "socket-tip swap", although we will not go into the details here. It would be important that everyone affected knows what costs they have to expect when it comes to care and that they are not robbed later.
The government could go further. You could keep the promise that politicians made before the introduction of long-term care insurance almost 30 years ago. The long-term care insurance then covers all the costs related to long-term care, the federal states and local authorities bear the investment costs, and the rest is paid by the individual. But the coalition is a long way from such ideas. The traffic light prefers to pamper the winners of the crisis.
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