Nursing home scheme income was hit by housing price slump
JUST one in 10 of the thousands of people who avail of Fair Deal, the State nursing home support scheme, opts to have their fees paid after their death, it emerged yesterday.
The majority are choosing to pay an average of €300 a week during their lifetime under the means-tested scheme for their subsidised care which costs around €1,200 - although it is as high as €2,100 in some HSE-run homes.
New figures obtained by the Irish Independent show the Exchequer has got a relatively poor return when recouping costs from the estates of residents after their death, partly due to the drop in house prices in recent years and other issues such as probate.
Figures from the Revenue Commissioners show it has collected €23.31m from the estates of 1,586 deceased residents since 2009 - an average of just €14,702 per person.
The figures come as Social Care Minister Kathleen Lynch yesterday toned down the controversial remarks she made at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children on Thursday. She told the committee that a comprehensive review of the scheme was expected to show it was unsustainable in its current form.
She told TDs and Senators: "The notion you would pay €250 to €290 a week for a service which is costing €1,200 is unsustainable."
However, Ms Lynch insisted yesterday she did not mean the Government was about to ask the elderly to pay more for their nursing home care under the scheme, despite her remarks.
She acknowledged the €948.7m allocated to the Fair Deal scheme in 2015 will have to be rationed later this year with possible delays of up to 20 weeks before people are allocated a nursing home place.
It will mean that a resident who enters a nursing home in that time will have to pay the full outlay, which will leave them more than €20,000 out of pocket until they can avail of the Fair Deal subsidy.
She is in favour of ending the cap on the scheme and making it demand-led, she told the 'Today with Sean O' Rourke' programme in RTE.
But an additional €30m each year would need to be pumped into the scheme if the waiting time for a nursing home bed - currently at 11 weeks - will come down to eight weeks.
The additional funding should come from the Exchequer, she added.
A spokesman for the Department of Health later declined to elaborate on Ms Lynch's remarks or say what kind of guarantee is being given that the resident's contribution will not be increased.
He said the review of the scheme "is expected to be finalised at the end of this quarter after which it will be made publicly available."
He said: "Among other issues, the review is examining the on-going sustainability of the scheme.
"It will make recommendations for the future management and operation of the scheme."
Eamonn Timmins of Age Action Ireland welcomed the clarification but said the organisation was concerned about the unacceptable waiting times for sick people before getting a nursing home bed.
The State proposed to take 80pc of a person's disposable income along with a maximum of 15pc of the value of other assets towards the cost of their nursing home bed when the scheme started.
This increased to 22.5pc in 2013, he pointed out.