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UPDATE: New assessment process for long-term care and community support services system announced

Premier Dwight Ball announced a new financial assessment method Monday for people entering long-term care facilities.
Premier Dwight Ball announced a new financial assessment method Monday for people entering long-term care facilities. - Rosie Mullaley

Senior citizens in this province will soon no longer have to have their financial assets checked when applying for long-term care and community support services.

Premier Dwight Ball announced Monday at Confederation Building in St. John’s that government will eliminate liquid asset testing.

Starting Nov. 1, those applying for long-term care and community supports will no longer have to provide proof of how much money they have in the bank or what kind of investments they have that can be converted to cash, including RRSPs, home equity or savings accounts.

“It makes sense...,” Ball told a gathering in the Confederation building lobby, where many seniors groups applauded the announcement.

“It’s just an easier, simpler process.”

Under the current system, only people with liquid assets below a certain level are eligible for financial assistance. The thresholds range from $3,000 to $10,000 for a single individual and $5,500 to $20,000 for a couple. Significant documentation also has to be provided.

“It’s something people have been advocating for quite some time,” Ball later told reporters. “This is a good day for them. No longer will they need to go through a very complicated system of determining what their bank accounts would be, getting information that’s very difficult at times for those who are aging in our community.”

As of Feb. 1, 2019, the needs test for specific programs will be eliminated and income testing will be expanded to all services offered by the regional health authorities.

Eligibility will be determined through one single test, the Income Test. It’s the same testing system that’s widely used in other Canadian jurisdictions. It’s a tool that calculates a person’s contribution towards their care based on their income.

To qualify for financial support, the health authority will only look at a person’s net income from the Canada Revenue Agency notice of assessment. New clients will be assessed with the income test. Existing clients will also be assessed with the income test when their annual reassessment date rolls around.

Of the approximately 20,000 people who are assessed in the system, some clients already in the long-term care and community support service system may have a higher contribution when they go through the Income Test. Ball said they will be grandfathered into the new program and will not see an increase in their personal contribution. In addition, a financial hardship policy will be developed for both new and existing clients.

Ball said his government is responding to calls for change, to make the application and eligibility process more person-centered, client-friendly and transparent in this province — in which 19 per cent of the population is over the age of 65. Within 10 years, it’s expected to rise to 27 per cent.

“Every one of us can share an experience of people we know in our lives who’ve had struggles and issues around assessment tools in our province,” Ball said.

“As a government, we’ve enhanced our focus to ensure that our older persons remain healthy, active and engaged citizens living in their own homes and communities as much as possible.

“Some people look at (aging) as a negative. I continue to say that when we look in our communities, some of our most vibrant communities that we have are there because of the contribution that some of the so-called older persons continue today to leave.”

Robert Rogers, president of Newfoundland and Labrador 50-plus Federation Inc., thanked Ball and his government for making such changes to the financial assessment process.

“This policy now gives the older person financial independence when they enter long-term care facilities,” Rogers said.

Health and Community Services Minister John Haggie, and Children, Seniors and Social Development Minister Lisa Dempster, also spoke at the event.

Before it wrapped up, Haggie, Dempster, Ball and Marie St. Aubin, president Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Union retirees and Congress of Union Retirees of Canada, raised the United Nations flag in recognition of the Oct. 1 International Day of Older Persons and National Seniors Day.

rosie.mullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

Earlier story:

Senior citizens in this province will soon no longer have to have their finances checked before being considered for long-term care and community support services.

The announcement to eliminate the liquid asset testing was made Monday by Premier Dwight Ball at Confederation Building in St. John’s.

Starting Nov. 1, those applying for long-term care and community supports will no longer have to provide proof of their liquid assets — that is, cash in the bank or investments that can be easily converted into cash. This includes a savings account or RRSP.

“It makes sense...,” Ball told a gathering in the Confederation building lobby, where many seniors groups applauded the announcement.

“It’s just an easier, simpler process.”

Under the current system, only people with liquid assets below a certain level are eligible for financial assistance and significant documentation has to be provided.

As of Feb. 1, 2019, the needs test for specific programs will be eliminated and income testing will be expanded to all services offered by the regional health authorities.

Eligibility will be determined through one single test, the Income Test. It’s the same testing system that’s widely used in other Canadian jurisdictions. It’s a tool that calculates a person’s contribution based on their income.

To qualify for financial support, the health authority will only look at a person’s net income from the Canada Revenue Agency notice of assessment. New clients will be assessed with the income tax. Existing clients will also be assessed with the Income Test when their annual reassessment date rolls around.

Of the approximately 20,000 people expected to be affected by the change, some clients already in the long-term care and community support service system may have a higher contribution when they go through the Income Test. To help minimize the impact, they will be grandfathered into the new program and will not see an increase in their personal contribution. In addition, a financial hardship policy will be developed for both new and existing clients.

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