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

Victor Boudreau
Photo: Adam Huras/Legislature Bureau


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.”