HSE cuts will force elderly to pay more for nursing homes
CONTROVERSIAL changes to the Government's scheme for subsidising nursing home care will force elderly people to pay thousands of euro in fees they previously did not have to.
Health Service Executive (HSE) cuts will result in some patients being hit with costs of up to €2,000 a week while they wait to be accepted into the Fair Deal scheme.
The initiative, in place since 2009, provides financial support to subsidise the huge cost of nursing home care.
Under the scheme, a nursing home resident pays 80pc of their income and, if they have assets, they are also liable for 5pc of their value for a maximum of three years.
This sum can be paid during their lifetime or deferred until after their death.
But it can sometimes take months for the HSE to calculate how much a person has to pay before they can be approved.
Up to the end of September, the scheme allowed an elderly person who applied, and needed to be immediately admitted to a nursing home, to have their costs covered while their application was being processed.
This was done by backdating their approval date to the date they were first admitted to the nursing home.
However, under changes to the scheme's rules anyone who applied from October 1 will only get financial assistance from the date of approval, which in most cases could be months after they enter a nursing home.
This means they will have to pay their own bills while waiting for clearance from the HSE and cannot claim this money back later.
The change will prove hugely expensive for many new entrants, with nursing homes charging between €800 and €2,000-a-week for care.
The HSE confirmed last night that backdating entry to the scheme had been discontinued.
A spokeswoman said the backdated payments were made in the earlier phases of the scheme due to the volumes of applications and the length of time it took to process them.
Introduced in 2009 to provide financial assistance for families paying for nursing home care, the scheme paid out €55m in 2009, €979m in 2010 and nearly €1bn for this year.
The change in policy was recently agreed with the Department of Health, the spokeswoman added.
The move comes in the wake of the financial crisis in the €1bn Fair Deal scheme in May.
That month the HSE warned it only had enough funding to pay for the 22,000 people already in nursing homes and suspended new applications.
It was bailed out with another €62m with a promise that 4,800 people could avail of the scheme before year's end.
But latest figures show that 500 people, who have been assessed and approved, are on a waiting list for a nursing home because of delays in funding.
Tadhg Daly of Nursing Homes Ireland, representing private homes, warned yesterday the move would lead to many more elderly patients, who cannot afford the costs, staying in acute hospitals, creating even more overcrowding.