By: Diane Baker Mason For Metro
You think it won’t happen to you. You won’t end up warehoused in some underfunded institution. You’ll live at home, maybe hire a helper. If you must, you’ll move to a nice facility with superlative care. As for the cost, the government covers that, right?
Wrong. Most Canadians are under the illusion their long-term care is covered by government plans. But anyone who needs long-term care soon finds themselves in a financial and bureaucratic quagmire — a patchwork of services and facilities, with limited (if any) government support. There are waiting lists, inconsistent qualification procedures and significant expense for both institutional and in-home care. It is easy to fall through the gaps.
Rarely are private savings and insurance adequate to pay for our care. Usually the cost far exceeds the average person’s savings. As for insurance, fewer than one per cent of Canadians purchase coverage for long-term care, possibly thinking it’s not something they have to pay for.
But we do pay, mostly from our own private funds. If that’s inadequate, we are often thrown into a semi-subsidized system with many gaps in it.
While it should be a national priority that quality long-term care be available to every Canadian, Canada’s plans for establishing and funding universal long-term care are virtually nonexistent. The federal parties speak mostly about the Canada Pension Plan and Old Age Security. Only the NDP promises a revised health accord that might address some long-term care issues.
But even a revised accord would not solve the funding problem. The answer lies in a public insurance plan. Such a plan would cover assistance with daily living as well as out-of-hospital professional services beyond those covered by the Canada Health Act.
Studies by public-policy groups have explored options for such plans. But we continue to turn a blind eye to the problem of funding our increasing need for long-term care.
This isn’t something remote from us — something that a separate group of “old people” are facing. We are the “old people.” If it’s not our personal problem right now, it will be soon enough. So let’s all start looking at this now. To paraphrase that wise old man, Mick Jagger, time is not on our side.