Most B.C. seniors in nursing homes will be hit with another significant jump in residential care rates this month.
The province announced more than a year ago it would raise the fees by 10 to 13 per cent for care home residents whose after-tax income is at least $22,000 a year.
But the hike was phased in over two years for existing clients, so a senior in care whose monthly rate jumped $81 in January 2010 will see another $81 increase starting this month.
Someone earning $22,000 or more will pay an extra $1,956 in 2011 compared to 2009.
“I know people who are just shocked, they can hardly find the words to describe what they’re feeling,” B.C. Health Coalition co-chair Alice Edge said.
Notices of the latest increase began arriving early last month.The new policy of taking up to 80 per cent of residents’ after-tax income allows for a minimum of $275 per month for spending on incidentals.
“We are hearing that’s not enough,” Edge said. “The seniors I’ve talked to are very stressed about these increased rates.”
The money left over can disappear quickly to prescription medicine, dental care, other personal care items and add-on services like television and telephone.
Even worse, she said, are cases of couples where one spouse is in care and the other is living at home.
With fees draining more of the cash of the spouse in care, the one at home can be pushed to the edge of their ability to maintain the household.
“They are experiencing a lot of financial distress around this.”
Health minister Colin Hansen said in a statement the new fees are more equitable, lowering the rates for the lowest-income seniors.
Someone who makes $14,000 a year now pays $894 per month, about $46 less than in 2009.
But only about a quarter of the poorest seniors in care are expected to pay less under the new system.
Overall, the fee changes are bringing government an estimated $54 million more per year.
“All of the additional revenue is being reinvested in care,” Hansen said.
He stressed individuals or couples who feel they cannot make the payments can also apply for reduced rates on the basis of hardship.
“No senior will be denied care based on income alone.”