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.