Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Homes Residents Rights, shared her concerns regarding prescription drug plan co-pay for low-income seniors Wednesday during a meeting between six seniors groups and Social Development Minister Sue Stultz
Health – Province to review drug plan hike ??
By STEPHEN LLEWELLYN
19 Apr 2012 03:35AM
The Alward government isn’t committing to reversing a controversial doubling of the prescription drug plan co-pay for low-income seniors that came into effect in January.
But Cecile Cassista, executive director for Seniors and Nursing Home Resident’s Rights said a meeting between six seniors groups and Social Development Minister Sue Stultz on Wednesday was still useful and productive.
“They were not able to give us an answer on reversing the 100 per cent increase,” Cassista said after the meeting.
“But they said they would go back to the (Health) minister and get back to us on that.”
The Tories increased the co-pay for prescription drugs for low-income seniors from an annual maximum of $250 to $500 per person as of Jan. 1 as an austerity measure.
A low-income senior is a person living on $17,198 or less a year or a couple living on $26,955 or less a year.
The seniors coalition that met with Stultz recommends New Brunswick follow Nova Scotia and waive any co-pay for seniors 65 and over who receive the guaranteed income supplement.
There are 55,384 seniors in New Brunswick who receive the guaranteed income supplement.
The six seniors groups that met with Stultz were: Cassista’s coalition; the New Brunswick Senior Citizen Federation; the New Brunswick Front for Social Justice; the New Brunswick Federation of Union Retirees; the Canadian Association of Retired Persons; and L’Association acadeinne et francophone des ainees et aines du Nouveau-Brunswick.
Cassista said the meeting also discussed the Alward government’s campaign promise to extend the mandate of the provincial ombudsman to cover seniors.
The Tories also promised to set up a 1-800 information number for seniors.
She said Stultz told them the government is working on the changes and they would be in place by the end of its mandate.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever had the minister confirm a timeline,” said Cassista.
“I found that very refreshing and I told her so.”
She said Stultz told the meeting the government is also looking at the 15-day notice requirement for nursing home evictions and the way nursing homes in the province cherry-pick seniors from hospital waiting lists rather than using a first-come, first-serve policy.
“We’re all very pleased about that,” she said.
Another issue discussed at the meeting is the federal government’s plan to increase the age when Canadians can collect old age security payments.
The latest Harper government budget announced that starting in 21 years, Canadians will have to be 67 rather than 65 to get old age security payments.
The seniors’ groups urged Stultz to fight the change.
“The concern we have with that is the province will incur financial impact because people are going to be on social assistance longer because they’ve increased the age to 67,” said Cassista.
“The minister said they will be meeting at the premiers’ meeting and they will be providing input at that time.”
She said the seniors groups also recommended increasing the guarantee income supplement by 15 per cent to lift all seniors out of poverty.
Cassista said Stultz also told them that government renewal won’t impact the senior and health aging secretariat.
This is the first time the six seniors groups have met together with government, and it went so well she said she hopes such meetings can be held again.