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Aged Couples Consider Separation to Avoid Law


15 October 2006

Aged Couples Consider Separation to Avoid Draconian Law

Elderly couples are considering splitting so they can receive an aged residential care subsidy from District Health Boards, the chief executive of HealthCare Providers NZ, Martin Taylor, revealed today.

The problem arises over DHBs interpretation of the eligibility rules where it is related to couples that choose to own an apartment within an aged residential care facility, Mr Taylor said. "Unfortunately, this is certainly leading to situations where elderly couples have to consider splitting up so that one partner can receive the care they are entitled to."

Recently, an elderly couple married for 57 years faced the situation where one of them needed rest home level care, and was entitled to have that care paid for by the government through a residential aged care subsidy. To stay together, the couple's daughter bought an apartment, which is part of the rest home complex.

"Unfortunately, the DHB refuses to pay the subsidy of the partner who is ill if they lived in the apartment. However, the DHB said it would pay the subsidy if the ill partner moved into a single room next door".

Fortunately the couples' daughter had the means to cover the costs of care so that her parents could stay together. However, for those families without the means the only option would have been to split up the elderly couple.

"We don't believe it was Parliament's intention for this situation to take place. Elderly couples should be supported by legislation to age together," Mr Taylor said. "Parliament must consider amending the Social Security (Long Term residential Care) Amendment 2006 Bill, to be debated in Parliament next week, so that this sad situation can be fixed."

It is important to note that this issue is cost neutral to the government. There is no impact on DHB costs, as the elderly person is already eligible for a subsidy. This issue is solely around where the person can receive that subsidy, said Mr Taylor.


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