July 24, 2023

Making a case for government-run long term care insurance: NIA

It’s not something we are ever prepared for. But many Canadians find out the cost of long-term care can range into the thousands per month when something happens to a loved partner or parent. It’s a cost that few expect or plan for.

Those are some of the reasons why the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) is calling for a national long-term care insurance plan, reports The Toronto Star.

NIA’s Dr. Samir Sinha calls such a program “a necessary `social contract’ that will especially help GenXers, the eldest of whom are marching towards 60, and the massive cohort of millennials, who will start turning 50 in the early 2030s,” the newspaper reports.

More people are living paycheque to paycheque and so they aren’t really doing a great job saving for their retirement,” Sinha, who is also director of geriatrics at Sinai Health and University Health Network, tells The Star.

“And the biggest thing that can really threaten anyone’s retirement or how they live in retirement will be if they all of a sudden have long-term-care needs,” he adds.

Long-term care is defined by the NIA “not as the traditional nursing home depiction, but as a mix of supports or health care services from public or private care providers across a range of settings, including institutions, the community and individual homes.”

“Many will one day need extra help, with bathing or getting dressed; or from physiotherapists or occupational therapists. It’s not just the potential vulnerability of old age, many will be living with disabilities. Some coverage is provided currently by a patchwork of provincial systems across Canada, the paper said, but often expenses are paid by the individual, if they can afford it,” the article notes.

Often, the article reports, people think they can look after an elder family member on their own. This is harder than it may sound, states York University’s Pat Armstrong in the article.

“The assumption that care will be provided by family, especially women, often leads to an unhappy awakening, given that many caregivers are not qualified to provide the support needed,” the article notes.

“It takes medical training that many don’t have, whether it’s looking after a partner with dementia or a chronic disease,” the article continues.

“It’s especially the case now when you have people with catheters and kidney failure and all kinds of other equipment they go home with,” Armstrong tells The Star. “That requires an incredible amount of training and skill. And the recognition that those skills mean you have to pay for them.”

The article notes that Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Taiwan and the US state of Washington all provide state-run long-term care insurance programs for citizens.

Without any state insurance program, we face some rather dizzying costs, the article reports.

“In nursing homes… co-payment fees cost more than $33,000 a year for a private room and $28,000 for a semi-private room. In-home services, the paper said, can range from $1,000 to $3,500 dollars per month while the cost of complex home care in Ontario can cost as much as $25,000 a month.”

It will be interesting to see if any levels of government in Canada explore this idea, particularly given the fact that the NIA predicts that one quarter of Canadians will be over 65 by 2030 and by 2048, the eldest GenXers will be in their 80s.

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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