Elderly face pension problems in China

By Cherry Han

As more elderly people move from their hometowns to larger cities, they face increasing problems with coverage for medical care and other benefits.

China’s latest census data show that the proportion of those over 60 years old reached nearly 15 percent, of whom about 10.6 million seniors have moved to cities. That amounts to 6 percent of the total population of the aged.

The current health insurance system in China states that retirees should receive care in hospitals designated by social security institutions where they worked, or medical expenses can’t be reimbursed.

As a result, a pension problem for the elderly has occurred because seniors often cannot receive benefits outside their hometowns.

Zhang Yuzhen, 57, comes from Liaoning, a northern province of China. She lives in Guangzhou with her son’s family. Zhang’s son is a teacher at Jinan University, residing in a teacher’s apartment at the college.

“My husband and I came here four years ago to take care of our granddaughter Duoduo, because our son and daughter-in-law are always busy working,” Zhang said. “We just cook meals, take Duoduo home from the kindergarten every day, and after some minor housework, we also surf the Internet, play chess and take walks in the college stadium. ”

Zhang said, she and her husband cannot take buses for free like local seniors because their resident cards come from their hometown, not Guangzhou.

Preferential policies for the elderly vary. In Guangdong province, non-local seniors can take a free bus in Zhongshan, Zhuhai and Huizhou, though there are different age limits. But in Guangzhou, non-locals still can’t enjoy the benefits.

Chang Feng, 52, works as a door lady at Jinan University, where she has been employed for nine years. Her hometown is in Sichuan, a southwest province in China. Chang came to Guangzhou with her husband and daughter 11 years ago and rented a house in Shipai Dong Road, which is near the college.

Chang had a benign tumor and had an operation two years ago, “Fortunately, it’s not malignant, and I recovered well. It didn’t influence my life too much,” she said.

But Chang added: “For the hospitalization costs, my husband and I went back to Sichuan so many times. Because my medical insurance was still in Sichuan, we had to find the Labor Bureau there to apply for the reimbursement. It is so inconvenient!”

The pension program causes the hardships in many areas, including public services and social security. It is hard for non-local seniors to get equal treatment.

When seniors migrate to other places, they often cannot participate in primary medical insurance because of their non-local household registration.

Meanwhile, local governments want the home administrations to pay to save money.

Zhou Hongxia suffers from the problems with pension payments.

Zhou, 66, comes from the northern province of Shandong. Due to a lumbar disc operation, she has been at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University for two weeks. Her daughter-in-law Zhang Qian had to give medicine to her because she couldn’t sit up by herself.

Zhou said that before she went to the hospital, she was easygoing at her son’s home. “I did not have to cook meals or clean the house because there was a nanny at home. I just watch TV, go for walks and play mahjong with neighbors.

“My husband passed away one year ago, and I had a quite sad time living in my hometown alone, so my son brought me to Guangzhou to let me spend my remaining years in comfort,” said Zhou.

According to her daughter-in-law, Zhou still needs to be in the hospital for two weeks because the doctor hadn’t taken out the stitches yet. “My husband went back to Shandong for reimbursement of medical expenses yesterday because our mom’s health insurance is still there. He had gone back there for three times so far,” said Zhang.

Some regions have set up some insurance settlement systems, but the those are limited to some generic drugs. Most drugs still need to be accounted in original medical insurance location.

China is promoting the development of social care service, but most people think the system has a long way to go, particularly for those who move from their hometowns.

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