Nova Scotians who need to prove they can drive safely will now have to pay $440 instead of just $40 for the test.
Capital Health has cut funding for the driver evaluation program – the only one of its kind in the province.
"We're looking at what's the cost to run the program and then to pass that on to the consumer to ensure that this is sustainable," said program manager Jim Adderson.
The driver evaluation program includes a physical assessment, cognitive screening and road test. About 300 people – including many seniors with dementia — are referred to the program every year.
Capital Health used to charge only $40 for the uninsured service. Referrals since July 11 are now subject to the $440 fee.
One advocate for seniors wants Capital Health to reconsider its decision.
"We're very concerned that a number of seniors will be caught with this change; that the people who can least afford it are going to end up paying for a process that they really don't want to have in the first place," said Bill Vangorder, with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons.
Cost may take drivers off the street
Dr. Paige Moorhouse, a geriatrician who researches dementia and driving, said the higher cost may influence some people.
"For some people, they'll decide not to have the test done because it's simply too expensive," she said. "But for other people who need to drive for one reason or another and may well be safe on the road, it may be a reasonable cost to incur."
Moorhouse said our aging population means demand for this kind of service will grow over the next 20 years. She said some patients with dementia need to take a driver's test on an annual basis, so costs could add up.
A private company offers a driver assessment for about $380, but only the Capital Health program has access to health records.
Moorhouse said a $48 road test with the provincial Registry of Motor Vehicles is not designed to assess drivers based on their cognitive abilities.