New Brunswick

Cathy Rogers defends handling of change to senior care

The minister who oversees senior care in New Brunswick is defending her handling of a policy change that still doesn't have any firm numbers attached to it.

Social Development minister defends policy change without attaching firm numbers to budget decision

The minister who oversees senior care in New Brunswick is defending her handling of a policy change that still doesn't have any firm numbers attached to it.

Social Development Minister Cathy Rogers says details about the nursing home subsidy cap changes announced in the budget still haven't been formulated by the provincial government. (CBC)
Cathy Rogers faced a third straight day of grilling from Opposition MLAs over changes to how seniors pay for nursing home care.

Rogers has been unable to say how much money the change will save taxpayers or what percentage of senior citizens will see their eligibility for subsidies affected by their bank accounts.

But Rogers told reporters that's because she wants to consult seniors' organizations on exactly how the new policy will work.

"If I came to this budget having already prepared the formula and decided ahead of time what it was going to look like, people would be complaining, 'How dare you do this without consulting us?'" she said.

The change will see the cap on what seniors pay for nursing home care — $113 per day — lifted for those whom the provincial government says can afford to pay.

Rogers says that will affect 13 per cent of current nursing home residents, but she has yet to explain how the provincial government will determine whether they can afford it.

Another change will involve the provincial government looking at liquid assets — bank accounts, savings and investments — in calculating what a senior can afford.

There's no doubt in my mind that they would know very clearly exactly what the number is.- Blaine Higgs, finance critic

Rogers hasn't said how that will affect the percentage of seniors who will have to pay more.

"I keep getting these questions for details, but the details haven't been formulated yet," she said in question period on Thursday.

Progressive Conservative finance critic Blaine Higgs says he believes the minister has specific numbers based on the budgeting process he witnessed when he was finance minister.

"There's no doubt in my mind that they would know very clearly exactly what the number is, and what it would be worth [in dollars] for each level of change," he said.

Speaking to reporters later, Rogers suggested at one point she was willing to look at alternatives to the change.

"Hey, if people have better ideas or if people have other ideas," she began.

But moments later, she added, "I would say we're going to go with what we've announced. However, there's a huge range of what that could look like."

Higgs says he's guessing the Liberals have withheld the numbers so they can adjust them, depending on the political furore.

"Why would you say, 'We're going to change the cap,' and create all this uncertainty in the system," he said to reporters, "unless you're just throwing out a little dart to see what kind of backlash you get, so then you can say, 'Maybe we'll just adjust it $5 or $10?'"

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