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.”

Update: Liberals say no decision yet on New Brunswick hospital closures February 20,2015

Health Minister Victor Boudreau says the strategic program review and public consultations are still underway in an effort to identify $500 million to $600 million in savings to help balance the province’s books.
Photo: Adam Bowie/The Daily Gleaner Mobile Archive


FREDERICTON • Health Minister Victor Boudreau says no decisions have been made about possible hospital closures in the province.

Boudreau said during question period on Friday that the strategic program review and public consultations are underway to try to identify the $500 million to $600 million in savings needed to balance the province’s books.

Under questioning by Tory Opposition member Madeleine Dubé, a former health minister, Boudreau said that everything – including closing some of the province’s 24 hospitals – is on the table when it comes to cutting health-care costs.

The Liberal government also has floated the idea of converting some hospitals, or portions of hospitals, to senior care facilities to cope with the demands of the province’s aging population.
“I want to be clear on a couple of things here,” Boudreau told the house. “First of all, there have not been seniors in hospital beds only over the last four months. This is a situation that has existed in New Brunswick for years.

“It is a challenge for all New Brunswickers. We have seniors in hospital beds who should possibly be in their own homes. They should be in the community. They should be in nursing homes. There is a challenge that we need to address. We are looking at every option, but no decisions have been taken.”

Dubé wanted to know how many hospitals might be closed, but she didn’t get an answer.
She said there are options the Liberal government does not seem to be considering when it comes to improving senior care.

“There are other solutions,” she said. “Keep acute care in the hospitals and bring seniors within the community and give them the living space they need.”
John McGarry, the CEO at Horizon Health, has said that with more and more seniors becoming long-term patients in hospitals, it makes sense for the province to consider big changes in the health-care system.
McGarry said recently that the health minister’s idea of closing some hospitals and converting them to nursing homes made sense.

“I know there are going to be pockets of people and areas and communities that don’t like that idea,” he said.

“But when you have the Saint John Regional Hospital, which is the most technologically advanced hospital in the Maritimes, and 25 per cent of the beds are taken up by patients who really belong in the community in long-term care, what are you doing with your system? You’re not maximizing the potential of your system.”

New Brunswick seniors vow to fight possible increase in long-term care fees March 23, 2015




 Cecile Cassista is executive director of the Coalition for Seniors’ and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights.
Photo: Greg Agnew/Times & Transcript
 
FREDERICTON • The Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights in New Brunswick is vowing to fight any effort by government to make seniors pay more for long-term care.

Cecile Cassista, executive director of the coalition, said on Sunday that seniors are alarmed at a trial balloon floated by the Liberals late last week suggesting that they may introduce a means test to assess the ability of people to pay for nursing and special care homes.

“If the Liberals go down this road, it would be a betrayal of the people who elected them to office,” Cassista said in an interview.

“We will not sit idle if such a regressive move is put in place.”
Victor Boudreau, the minister responsible for the strategic program review, said the government is looking at ways to hold the billion-dollar budget of the Department of Social Development at zero, and one of those ways may involve requiring seniors to pay more for their long-term care, taking into account all assets and not just income.

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.”
The provincial budget will be brought down on Tuesday, March 31.

Cassista said she still vividly recalls the day in 2006, early in the mandate of then-premier Shawn Graham and his Liberal government, when the financial assessment model for long-term care was changed so that only a senior’s income and not his or her total assets were factored into the calculation of daily rates.
Cassista said prior to that change, there were horror stories of seniors losing their homes and actually divorcing to try to keep some of the assets built up during a lifetime together.

She said there were tears in her eyes on the day that Graham announced, after a long battle by the seniors coalition, that assets would be protected and the long-term care policy would be changed so that only income is considered when seniors are charged.

“New Brunswick’s seniors have built our province, and the government is committed to treating you with the respect and dignity you deserve,” Graham said when he announced the change.
She said on Sunday that she finds it hard to believe the coalition may have to revive its fight over long-term care costs.

“Government has to quit attacking seniors,” Cassista said. “There are over 55,000 low-income seniors in this province. There is so much to understand around this issue, but just forcing people to pay more out of their own pockets is not the answer.”

She said the government needs to develop a strong home care program, and there are signs the Liberals are working on such a plan.

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.”

Don’t let Liberals take seniors’ assets March 24, 2015

Fredericton Daily Gleaner

In an article about seniors’ assets, Liberal MLA Victor Boudreau suggests the pendulum has swung to far.
As I recall, at one time when a senior had to be placed in care, if he/she had property, that property was taken by government as part payment for special care. A previous government changed that to a fair system. Should that be reversed?

I have no wish to be an alarmist, but we all know the present provincial government is looking at everything but the obvious to save money.

The previous system, as you may recall, would leave a spouse with no place to live if their partner was the registered owner of the property and had to be placed in special care. Do you want this? I sincerely doubt it. It might be wise to contact your local MLA/minister and let your feelings be known.

After all you have paid tax on your property for a lifetime, you have tended it as an owner. You may have sacrificed to keep your property in the family. You probably have family who you would wish to inherit your property. Do you want the government to take possession of your assets? I sincerely doubt that.

By the way, the savings that the present government pursues is at hand, but they will not acknowledge that forced bilingualism and duality are the root cause of the massive provincial debt.

The cost of bilingualism to Canada since its inception exceeds a trillion dollars.
Doubt me? Check the facts.
Ted Ross
Miramichi

Premier announces deputy minister departures, appointments 06 February 2015

http://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/news/news_release.2015.02.0083.html


The premier announced the following changes to deputy ministerial responsibilities:
  • Edith Doucet becomes the clerk of the Executive Council and secretary to cabinet and remains deputy minister of Healthy and Inclusive Communities;
  • Lisa Doucette becomes deputy minister of Social Development on an acting basis;
  • Sadie Perron becomes deputy minister of Transportation and Infrastructure on an acting basis;
  • Gordon Gilman becomes deputy minister of Government Services and president of Service New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Internal Services Agency on an acting basis and,
  • Kelly Cain becomes deputy minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture in addition to her responsibilities as deputy minister of Human Resources.

Engage NB 2015



The Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Homes Residents Rights is pleased to submit the following response to better serve the needs of New Brunswickers:

1.      What does a thriving New Brunswick look like to you 10 years from now?
a.       A vision with a focus on a healthy thriving workforce, i.e. putting people back to work with   worthy wages, lift people out of poverty, provide affordable housing, and education opportunities.
b.      Ensure that all seniors have a voice in their care, the ability to select and live in their community of choice in affordable housing, or coop-housing and with trained staff in a ratio that meets the needs of the elderly population.
c)       Rework the Public Transit model, a social justice issue, to meet the needs of the population, i.e. our youth, working people and the aging population.

2.       Thinking of all of the things government spends money on to provide the residents of New Brunswick with services, what are three things that you think government could stop doing to save money?

a)      Streamline top level bureaucrats with comparable income, and remove all bonuses, incentives and free grants to corporations.

b)      One of the major issues facing seniors and the health care system is the number of seniors staying in acute hospital beds while waiting for nursing care placement and the lack of a home care program. Incorporate home support workers under the auspices of the Regional Health Authority in order to provide for improved home care support. Return to the Graham government strategy on increasing nursing home beds for those who are on the wait- list. (Study already done).

c)       There are 64 licensed nursing homes in the province's eight regions with 4427 beds. They are formed under the provinces Companies Act, as non-profit organizations.   Many nursing homes receive 85 -100% funding from government. Executive Directors could be responsible for twenty (20) or more beds. This would alleviate added costs to government and administration of the home.

3.        With all of the financial challenges facing our province, what three things do you think       government could do to raise money?

a)      Establish Toll highways at critical points of entry to the province.

b)      Implement the Public Auto Insurance program that will create jobs and invest money in the province in place of off shore jobs. This model was supported by all political parties in 2004. (Final Report on Public Automobile Insurance in New Brunswick, April 2004) First Session Fifty- fifth legislature).
c)       The cost to keep seniors in Acute Hospital beds is an enormous burden to taxpayers, ($1000 per day per patient). A home care model as established in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, with the seniors’ portfolio to be the responsibility of the Department of Health.
Some medical buildings within the province could be modified to accommodate seniors who are currently occupying Acute Hospital beds, which would create job opportunities with in the system.

The aging population is growing; the number of seniors (over 65) is expected to increase dramatically over the next 25 years. Eliminating services to the aging population is unacceptable; this will only create undue hardship and be more costly at the end of the day.

The Coalition respectfully requests that serious consideration be given to this submission and that the present government start listening to the voices of New Brunswickers.

Respectfully submitted
On behalf of the Coalition Board of Directors


Cecile Cassista

Cecile Cassista
Executive Director