Some New Brunswick seniors to pay higher fees for nursing home care

Above watch: A controversial plan to make wealthier seniors pay more for nursing home care is drawing more controversy. Alex Abdelwahab reports.

MONCTON – The Gallant government released details Monday of a new formula under which some seniors will pay more for nursing home care.

Individuals with savings of more than $50,000 and couples with savings of more $100,000 can expect to have their liquid financial assets included in assessments to calculate fees for their care.

The government already uses income to calculate fees, but under the new policy it will also factor in cash, bank accounts, stocks and other securities, bonds, TFSAs, GICs, mutual funds and investment funds and trusts.

“The family home will not be counted in the assessment,” Minister of Social Development Cathy Rogers said at a press conference Monday morning at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre. “Not even when it’s sold. Neither will items such as cottages, boats or vehicles.”

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The Gallant government will also not be including RRSPs or RRIFs in the assessments. Rogers said the government will not be touching the assets of people below these thresholds, and those already in care will not see any change.

Rogers says the province is changing its policy because of its financial situation as it deals with a projected deficit of $476.8 million for this fiscal year, but the changes are also needed because of increased demand for care.

“In the next 10 to 15 years, we have an increase of 61 per cent of seniors entering the 70, 75 age bracket,” she said.

The new daily maximum will be capped at $175 per day, regardless of how much they have in liquid assets.

No formal calculation has been done to figure out exactly how many people this change will affect, Rogers said, but she expects it to affect about 10 to 13 per cent of seniors.

In the past the government has said, only 13 per cent of nursing home residents pay the current maximum of $113.

The government has not announced an exact date yet for when the change will come into effect, but Rogers said it will be happening this fiscal year.

Seniors groups including the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights have been criticizing the change since the government first announced in the March budget that they would be considering financial assets in nursing home calculations.

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Executive Director Cecile Cassista said they do not accept the chances, now that they have been announced.

“We fought hard to make sure assets were not included, and again the minister is not listening,” she told Global News. “We asked her to listen, she’s not listening and so it’s totally unacceptable. I’ve received many, many phone calls and e-mails this morning.”

Cassista took part in a meeting with Rogers on Friday in Fredericton, she said during the meeting, seniors asked the government to look at funding formulas for other provinces and consider things like increasing the HST or adding tolls to make up for their shortfall.

New Brunswick’s current maximum daily nursing home rate is already the highest in the country at $113.

Senior Corinne Wetmore said she will not be paying more with the changes, but still doesn’t believe they are fair, especially for seniors who are saving money to give to pass on.

“Everyone wants to leave a legacy,” she said. “They would like to leave a little nest egg for their children. They’ve worked hard for it and I think that they deserve to do that with the money that they’ve earned. They’ve paid taxes all their life.”

She expects that this change will mean many seniors will make arrangements to transfer their savings to their family members immediately, rather than have it taken by the government.

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-with files from The Canadian Press

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