Cancer patients applaud Liberal vow to boost support program
$15K cutoff leaves minimum-wage families on the hook for transport and boarding
Nova Scotia's Minister of Health and Wellness says the province will offer more help to cancer patients who have to travel to Halifax for treatment — a move that is being applauded by cancer patients.
The provincially run Boarding, Transportation and Ostomy program helps cancer patients pay for travel, lodging and ostomy supplies during treatments. The family must earn less than $15,720 a year. The rate was set in 1994.
Maynard Simpson and Susan Taylor, a Colchester County couple living in Economy, raised the issue in October. Simpson was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus last year and was initially told he qualified for the support program.
It turned out the couple made $238 more than the limit. They were denied help, but Taylor pleaded with MSI to reconsider and eventually their claim was approved.
Taylor is pushing for the income threshold limit to be increased to $25,000, from $15,720.
"I hope for Nova Scotians that are facing the same battle that my husband and I did last year, I hope the amount will be fair and it will be enough to make a difference," she said Monday.
"It's not even quite $10,000 more than what the level is right now, so I think we're being very fair in asking for that amount. I think the government would be a little unfair if they didn't go a long with that."
Kelly Cull of the Canadian Cancer Society agreed it's time for the figure to increase.
"If you're earning minimum wage, you have an income that's much, much, higher than the threshold," Cull said.
Limit to be revealed in budget
The Canadian Cancer Society said the income threshold should be in line with other programs. Similar programs have a limit of $22,000.
The Liberals promised to address that if elected. Now in government, Health Minister Leo Glavine said they will keep their word.
"We have committed to raising that threshold and assisting cancer patients to a much greater degree than what is allowed by that threshold currently," he said.
Glavine said the new limit has not yet been decided but the boarding and transportation program will be addressed in the next budget.
That's good news for Mike Elliott. He has cancer of the neck and travelled from Bass River to Halifax last week to begin treatment.
"[It's] an hour and a half drive and I'd say it costs about 75 bucks for gas," he said.
A recent benefit organized by Elliott's friends is covering his travel expenses.