The Alberta government says it will cover the first three months of this year’s annual increase in continuing care accommodation fees.
Continuing care operators can raise their fees every July 1 by the rate of inflation over the previous year. That’s expected to be 5.5 per cent this year.
To help residents, the province said it will pay operators directly for the increase for July, August and September. This translates to about $10.4 million to offset one-quarter of this year’s increase in accommodation charges for Albertans in long-term care and designated supportive living.
“This year’s inflation rate is unusually high, and passing it on in full would be an undue strain on continuing care residents and families,” said Health Minister Jason Copping in a news release.
“Giving them a break is the right thing to do. At the same time, operators are also being impacted by inflation. We’ll look at options to reduce the burden on residents beyond Sept. 30 while we also ensure operators have the revenue they need to maintain services.”
Accommodation charges include the cost of providing services like rooms, meals, laundry, housekeeping, utilities, building maintenance and general administration.
Effective July 1, based on the 5.5 per cent increase, the average monthly cost of a private room in Alberta will be $2,249, or $73.95 per day.
A semi-private space will cost about $1,957 per month or $64 per day, according to the province.
Laura Tamblyn Watts, CEO of the national seniors’ advocacy group CanAge, said the increase this year is a big jump for people on a fixed income.
“Just imagine those dollars adding up at a time when your dollars are not increasing,” Tamblyn Watts said. “The concern here is not the fact that things are more expensive, the concern is that you’re trying to get the money from people who don’t have more to give.”
The Alberta Seniors & Community Housing Association (ASCHA) represents providers across the province.
Irene Martin-Lindsay, executive director of ASCHA, said it’s been advocating for an increase in the rates set by the government.
“Our costs overall in the province are higher than the accommodation fees for delivering services, so members have had to fundraise or support it through other types of housing options,” Martin-Lindsay said.
“You want to make sure you’re providing quality food, quality services, quality services for your seniors. When the rates are set by the government, and aren’t aligned with your actual costs, (the increase is) more than essential.”
Annual increases are based on the Alberta Consumer Price Index from February of the current year and February of the previous year.
– With files from Kim Smith, Global News