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Significant Risks For Older People In Asset Tests

AGE CONCERN MEDIA RELEASE
12 May 2004

Significant risks for Older People in asset testing legislation, says Age Concern NZ

Age Concern NZ urges the Government to be open and honest about what the Social Security (long-term residential care) Amendment Bill means in terms of what older people can be expected to pay in rest homes and hospitals.

"Potentially its giving with one hand and taking away with the other," says Kerry Dalton, Chief Executive of Age Concern NZ.

"The changes in asset testing will see more older people qualifying for public funding but what that funding covers may actually be reduced under this legislation."

"What was meant to be good news for older people has a hidden sting."

The Bill actually brings in a new definition of what public funding covers called 'specified care services'. Under the Bill, anything outside of 'specified care services' the older person is liable to pay for. The $636 limit on what people have to pay also only relates to 'specified care services.'

"It all comes down to what is covered by 'specified care services', says Ms Dalton, and this may well vary from DHB to DHB."

"Anything outside of specified care services, the older person can be charged for to an uncapped amount."

"We think the changes contained in this Bill have the potential to put older people at significant risk, says Ms Dalton, particularly those on low incomes. They may be in danger of not having essential health and disability needs met because they are unable to pay for them. There is also the risk of financial exploitation."

"Our understanding is that such things as transport to and from the specialist, as well as ambulance costs in certain regions, and the cost of customised equipment, will be charged for. These are not luxuries. People need these things and should have them regardless of their ability to pay."

"We are concerned that older people will fall through the cracks between what the provider is funded to deliver and what the person needs, says Ms Dalton.

Age Concern is making some strong recommendations in its submission to the Select Committee tomorrow, says Ms Dalton.

Two of the key recommendations are:

1.. That the definition of 'specified care services' includes those services specified by a registered health professional of the person's choice; and 2.. That older people in residential care are eligible for disability allowance and special benefit to meet their health and disability needs. Copies of the Age Concern NZ submission available on request

Email kerry.dalton@ageconcern.org.nz

ENDS

Age Concern is a not-for-profit, charitable organisation promoting the quality of life of older people, and encouraging healthy, positive ageing for people of all ages, since 1948.


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