Keep Hands off Seniors Assets April 2015


Commentary - Bruce Fitch MLA Riverview Leader Oppositon PC aPRIL 17, 2015 Seniors ASSETS





ctv News April 9, 2015



Questions remain over New Brunswick government’s plan for seniors:
http://atlantic.ctvnews.ca/questions-remain-over-new-brunswick-government-s-plan-for-seniors-1.2317785

Few New Brunswick seniors will pay more for nursing home care, say Liberals April 8, 2015



CHRIS MORRIS Legislature Bureau

April 8, 2015

Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch took dead aim at the changes to seniors care brought about when the Liberal government unveiled its budget.
FREDERICTON • The Liberal government says only a small percentage of seniors will be asked to pay more for long-term care, even though it does not yet know what the threshold will be for determining wealth.
The government was peppered with questions from Tories on Tuesday, who wanted more detail about the decision to make wealthy seniors pay more for nursing home care, a decision the Tories said has frightened many people.
“It appears that this government is very selective in whom it speaks for,” said Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch during question period in the legislature.
“When the government talks about going and talking to people in nursing homes, I wonder: Is the premier going to go to the people with Parkinson’s disease who are lying on their backs in nursing homes? Is he going to tell them, ‘Thanks for your contribution over the last 89 years of your life, but I am taking what is left of your assets?’ ”
Premier Brian Gallant defended the budget decision on nursing homes as “progressive.”
“I hope the Opposition will acknowledge that we will not be touching the family home and that we will be asking only those who are a bit better off than others to contribute a little more,” Gallant told the house.
“We will not ask those who are vulnerable, those who have a tough financial time, to give more. We will continue to support them.”
Social Development Minister Cathy Rogers said only 13 per cent of the people now in nursing homes would be affected by the government decision to remove the $113-per-day cap on costs.
But she said she does not know how many seniors ultimately will be impacted by the decision to calculate ability to pay based on liquid assets, such as investments and savings, in addition to income.
“I can’t tell you who will be affected by this because we don’t know yet,” Rogers told reporters outside the legislature.
“We are trying to deal with a system that has increasing pressures and demands, and we just don’t have the ability to pay. We know there will be an increase of 61 per cent of people over 75 years of age that we will have to provide care for. We have to make the system sustainable.”
Rogers said she believes “we are talking about a smaller percentage of people.”
She said there is no policy yet on who will pay or how much they will pay, and she said there be consultations with stakeholders before any firm decisions are made.
“We are asking New Brunswickers, ‘What would you do if you were in our position? How would you meet the demands of tomorrow?’ ”
The announcement in last week’s budget that the current cap of $113 per day for nursing home care is being removed, and that those who can afford it will be asked to pay more has sent shock waves throughout the province’s senior community.
CARP, formerly known as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, weighed in on the debate Monday, saying in a news release that forcing families to use savings and investments to finance nursing home care places an “undue burden” on people facing life-changing decisions.

No criteria yet for what makes a ‘wealthy’ senior in New Brunswick April 7, 2015

https://www.telegraphjournal.com/telegraph-journal/story/41929667/?nopromo=1



CHRIS MORRIS Legislature Bureau





 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
CARP spokeswoman Suzanne Maltais of Fredericton says she has been inundated with calls and emails from seniors who are upset about a means test being brought in for nursing homes. The seniors lobby group says it would place an undue burden on a vulnerable population. Photo: Chris Morris/Legislature Bureau


FREDERICTON • As concern grows among New Brunswick seniors about a proposed means test for long-term care, the provincial government says it has yet to define the criteria to establish who is wealthy enough to pay more for access to nursing homes.

The Department of Social Development said in a statement Monday it will not have a policy until the fall on its decision to ask “wealthy clients” to contribute more to the true cost of nursing home care, which it says is about $233 a day.

Social Development Minister Cathy Rogers and Finance Minister Roger Melanson both have said the vast majority of seniors – 87 per cent – will continue to be subsidized for long-term care. But they have not defined the threshold of wealth for the minority of seniors who will be asked to dig into their own pockets to pay for care.

“The government will be guided by the principle of fairness and making these difficult decisions in a fair and compassionate manner,” the government’s communications department said in a release on behalf of Social Development.

“This ensures that those with the greatest ability to contribute more to fixing the province’s fiscal situation do, while at the same time minimizing the impact on the most vulnerable.”
The statement said consultations and policy design need to be completed before the government can define the criteria for the means test.

The announcement in last week’s budget that the current cap of $113 per day for nursing home care is being removed and that those who can afford it will be asked to pay more has sent shock waves throughout the province’s senior community.

CARP, formerly known as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, weighed in on the debate Monday, stating in a news release that forcing families to use savings and investments to finance nursing home care places an “undue burden” on people facing life-changing decisions.

“A majority government which did not campaign on this issue does not have the mandate for such a drastic change. CARP members would change their vote over this,” said Susan Eng, vice-president of advocacy for the national seniors lobby group.

In New Brunswick, two CARP representatives – Suzanne Maltais in Fredericton and Nelson Vessey in Moncton – said in interviews on Monday they are being inundated with questions from worried seniors.
“People don’t know what it means,” Maltais said, adding the government needs to have a better communications strategy for the issue.

“Seniors are very apprehensive and they are outraged at the fact that the government is changing the policy. What is the fee structure? How will it work and how will it affect, say, a couple when one spouse has to go into a nursing home? How much will the supporting spouse have to pay? Will the home have to be sold? We need more information. We know this province is in a poor state and that we have to do our share. But the seniors are a vulnerable population.”

Vessey said he is afraid the means test will turn back the clock in New Brunswick to a time when all assets, including the family home, were calculated for nursing home fees.

“I’m worried we could see a repeat of divorce, New Brunswick style,” Vessey said. “The only way people could protect their assets was to divorce, so they separated their assets between the wife and husband.”
The budget announcement states that family homes will not be considered under the new policy – only liquid assets like investments and savings. But Vessey said once seniors lose income, they may be forced to sell the family home because they can no longer afford to maintain it.

Maltais said a means test for seniors could be the thin edge of the wedge, wondering if it could eventually be extended to other public services. She said the prospect is frightening to older people who no longer have the ability to work harder to raise more money.

“When you are 30 years old, you can recover,” the CARP spokeswoman said.
“But when you are 80 years old and people take away your investments and your assets, where do you go after? That scares people.

Keep your hands off seniors’ assets - EDITORIAL Fredericton Daily Gleaner March 23, 2015

https://www.telegraphjournal.com/telegraph-journal/story/41757779/keep-your-hands-off
True to their promise of leaving no stone unturned in their search to cut costs and generate more revenue, the Liberals are taking a look at seniors’ assets.
Victor Boudreau, the minister responsible for coming up with $500 million to $600 million in savings, said last week he wants to hold the line on the Department of Social Development’s spending in the upcoming budget.
This will include “looking at things like the means testing they do for nursing homes for example – the financial assessments, looking at people’s ability to pay. Does it always have to be across the board, or can some of these things be wealth based?” Boudreau said.

As it stands, how much a senior pays for care in a nursing home is based, for the most part, on his or her income. Prior to October 2006, how much a senior paid was based on assets, everything from retirement plans, savings, cottages, and non-residential land holdings. New Brunswickers had to pay for 100 per cent of their care until their assets were depleted. The consequences of this formula were devastating for some married couples because the asset calculation comprised the couple’s total assets. This meant the spouse who didn’t need care had to watch his or her assets dwindle away to nothing.

As hard to stomach as that is, a suggestion from bureaucrats on how to beat the system was even worse. In 2003, years before the reform, Elizabeth Martin said if she wanted to hold onto some assets, she should get a divorce. Martin and her husband had been married for 45 years at the time.
“If we get a divorce, half the assets will be mine. If we don’t get a divorce all the assets will be the government’s,” Martin said at the time.

The Social Development budget is the third largest expenditure behind health care and education, and given the demographic projections for the province, it is only going to grow in the foreseeable future. As eager as the Liberals are to rein in spending and generate new revenue, doing it on the backs of seniors who have managed their finances responsibly is a public relations disaster waiting to happen. Not only does it look bad, but it will only lead to games of hide and divest your assets.
The Liberals are doing the right thing by looking everywhere, but the answer to the Social Development budget might be found in other areas.

People enter nursing homes because they, or their family, are no longer able to take care of themselves. So what can the government do to keep seniors at home longer?
New Brunswick Medical Society president Dr. Camille Haddad says the most cost-effective way to keep people out of hospital is through regular checkups with a family physician. The reason it’s cost effective is because minor problems don’t have the opportunity to become serious ones. Unfortunately there are thousands of people in the capital region without a family doctor. Addressing the shortage will have benefits down the line.

Another way to keep seniors at home longer is through at-home care. Nursing homes should be the last resort. With a little help, the need to seek full-time care can be delayed, saving the government money and families a gut-wrenching decision. Bolstering the home-care program is going to be a must to cope with the “grey tsunami” demographers are predicting.
The Liberals have a number of options to address the Social Development budget, but reintroducing a disastrous policy shouldn’t be one.



Liberals considering changes to way long-term care for seniors is paid for

Victor Boudreau
Photo: Adam Huras/Legislature Bureau

https://www.telegraphjournal.com/telegraph-journal/story/41734171/liberals-conside

FREDERICTON • The Liberal government is considering freezing the budget of the Department of Social Development and requiring seniors who can afford it to pay more for long-term care.
Victor Boudreau, the minister responsible for the strategic program review, said Friday nothing is written in stone as the government attempts to hammer out details for the March 31 budget, but it is looking at ways to rein in costs at Social Development.

Social Development is the third largest department in government after Health and Education. Its 2014-2015 budget was $1.1 billion.
“Holding a department like Social Development to a zero per cent increase is not easy,” Boudreau said in an interview.

“We have made a big effort in trying to protect the less fortunate and low income New Brunswickers. That is obviously important. But holding Social Development at zero does mean looking at things like the means testing they do for nursing homes for example – the financial assessments, looking at people’s ability to pay. Does it always have to be across the board, or can some of these things be wealth based? We are looking at all kinds of different scenarios as we try to nail down the budget in time for March 31.”
Boudreau said that, currently, an individual’s financial contribution to long-term care is based on income, “but it doesn’t look at anything else.”

“So you could be very wealthy or be from a middle income family and end up paying the same to get the services,” he said.
“We need to look at that model. We are looking at it very closely as we finalize the budget.”
Opposition critic Ernie Steeves said the Liberals should be following the Home First model put in place by the previous Tory government as a means of encouraging seniors to stay in their own homes.

“I would suggest that if they had followed our model in the Home First plan, more of those seniors would be living at home instead of in a nursing home,” Steeves said.
“And once again the Gallant Liberals are preying on the most vulnerable in our province.”
About 10 years ago, the assessment for nursing homes used to include family income and assets when determining what daily fee a resident would pay.

Lobbying by citizen and senior groups resulted in having the process changed so that assets such as the family home were no longer included in the calculation of a person’s ability to pay.
But Boudreau is suggesting the pendulum may have swung too far in one direction and with the province facing a demographic time bomb in the form of an aging population, it may be time to revisit the issue of who pays for long-term care.

“There has been a spike over the last number of years of applications and admissions into nursing homes,” said Boudreau, who is also minister of health.
“We really have to look at that whole package and how those financial assessments are done, looking at people’s ability to pay. We also need to look at the governance side of things as well – we have 65 nursing homes across the province administered by 63 different entities. Some of that needs to be looked at is well.”
Suzanne Maltais, chairwoman of the Fredericton chapter of CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons), said seniors will be apprehensive about possible changes to the assessment process for long-term care.

“People already are unsure as to how the process works and who pays for what and how much,” she said, declining further comment until she has more details about the government’s plans.
Boudreau said there are about 650 people on waiting lists for nursing home beds, and about 450 of those people are waiting in hospital beds.
“Generally, New Brunswickers understand and accept that the best option for the family and the cheapest model for government is to keep people in their home,” Boudreau said.

“That is what families want and that is what governments want. Special care homes are more expensive, nursing homes are even more expensive and hospitals are the most expensive. The more we can get people out of hospitals into those various community settings the better it will be for the families, for the seniors involved and for the government.”

Priorities should include seniors

EDITORIAL Telegraph-Journal

Victor Boudreau, the province’s health minister and leader of the strategic program review, has suggested government may use a financial means test to determine how much a senior citizen should pay for long-term care. It seems seniors will be expected to help control spending in the province’s social development department.

Governing is the art of juggling priorities and the Liberal government should take a hard look at its list before targeting seniors. The principle that those of greater means should pay more of their share of extended care shouldn’t necessarily be ruled out. Public funding for care should be divided so those who need the most financial help receive it. But the Liberals are trying to solve a specific expense problem without taking a broader look at this issue.

New Brunswick had more deaths than births for the first time in 2014 and our median age of 43.7 is the oldest in Canada. We are growing older as a province and this demographic shift will have a profound impact on health-care costs in the years ahead. The fact there are 650 seniors already waiting for a bed in a special care or nursing home is a leading indicator of the looming crisis. We will need more special care and nursing home beds and a larger percentage of New Brunswickers will need extended care with fewer residents of a working age to support those public services.

Against this backdrop of rising health-care costs and an expectation of seniors contributing more, the Liberals are embarking on a large public infrastructure spending program. Finance Minister Roger Melanson is hoping the federal government will contribute $30 million to match the provincial contribution to twin Highway 11 between Shediac and Shediac Bridge. We fail to see the logic behind spending $30 million in new provincial money to twin a road while we ask our most elderly citizens to sell their houses or dip into their RRSPs to help pay for their care.

After contributing to our province and paying taxes for decades, our seniors deserve to be more of a priority than asphalt. We urge the Liberals to develop a full long-term care strategy that determines how we will fund beds and ongoing care in a manner that is fair to seniors and taxpayers. In the meantime, keep the paving crews idle.

Tories question proposal to ask some New Brunswick seniors to pay more for care March 25, 2015

Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch speaks to reporters at the Legislature in Fredericton.
Photo: Adam Huras/Legislature Bureau


FREDERICTON • The Tory opposition is questioning the priorities of the Liberal government after the minister in charge of finding hundreds of millions in savings floated the idea of asking some seniors to pay more for long-term care.
Victor Boudreau, the minister responsible for the strategic program review, told Brunswick News last week that the Liberals were considering a freeze to the Department of Social Development’s budget.
Social Development is the third largest department in government after Health and Education. Its 2014-2015 budget was $1.1 billion.
To get there, the Grits are considering changes to the seniors care funding system.
Opposition Leader Bruce Fitch labelled the idea as “disgraceful” in the provincial legislature on Tuesday, stating the Liberals rather spend millions of dollars on pavement than protect the assets of seniors.
The salvo took aim at the Liberal’s $900 million infrastructure spending plan.
“There is an urgent, urgent file right now that is causing many, many people in the province a lot of concern, a lot of heartache, and a lot of discouragement,” Fitch said. “It is disgraceful that the government has floated a trial balloon to say that we are going to increase the conditions of the contribution to long-term care.
“It is shameful today that this particular government wants to spend millions of dollars on pavement rather than protecting the assets of seniors who have contributed so much to the people of the province.”
He added: “Can the Premier rise today, apologize to the seniors of the province, and say that this is not on the table in this budget?”
Premier Brian Gallant was not in the legislature on Tuesday.
Social Development Minister Cathy Rogers did not directly answer the question, instead stating that a multimillion-dollar plan unveiled by the former government in efforts to keep seniors in their homes is under review.
“Seniors are a priority of this government,” Rogers said. “All vulnerable people are a priority of this government.
“Nothing has changed with regard to our priorities of creating jobs, getting our fiscal house in order, and taking care of families.”
She added: “I have reiterated that the Home First approach has to be looked at in the whole context of long-term care. Seniors are very, very important. We have a system that has to be sustainable. We are acting to make sure that the system is there for all people who need it, when they need it, and with the right levels of care.”
Rogers answered questions during question period but was not made available for comment afterward on Tuesday.
About 10 years ago, the assessment for nursing homes used to include family income and assets when determining what daily fee a resident would pay.
Lobbying by citizen and senior groups resulted in having the process changed so that assets such as the family home were no longer included in the calculation.
But Boudreau is suggesting the pendulum may have swung too far in one direction.
“Holding social development at zero does mean looking at things like the means testing they do for nursing homes, for example – the financial assessments, looking at people’s ability to pay,” Boudreau said. “Does it always have to be across the board, or can some of these things be wealth based? We are looking at all kinds of different scenarios as we try to nail down the budget in time for March 31.”
Boudreau said that, currently, an individual’s financial contribution to long-term care is based on income, “but it doesn’t look at anything else.”
“So you could be very wealthy or be from a middle income family and end up paying the same to get the services,” he said. “We need to look at that model.
“We are looking at it very closely as we finalize the budget.”
Green party Leader David Coon is also standing against the proposed change.
“We’ve been down this road before,” Coon said. “The idea that seniors’ assets like their homes may be on the block is unacceptable.
“Those are things that they are hoping to pass down, often to their families.”
He added: “To essentially have to dissolve all of their worldly belongings and assets is just not fair, it’s not right, it’s not just.”