March 28, 2018 – “CARP is pleased that today’s budget shows a needed focus on Ontario seniors. The investments are significant and broad-ranging. Key investments in the areas of long-term care, housing cost offsets, prescription drug and dental coverage, home care, caregiver and dementia supports, pension security in retirement and reducing wait times for hospital care will make a real difference in the lives of older Ontarians,” says Laura Tamblyn Watts, CARP’s National Director, Law, Policy and Research. “However, it is unfortunate that there is nearly no investment in elder abuse and neglect response, a clear priority for older Ontarians.”
- Long-Term Care
Today’s announcement to invest in new long-term care beds is a step in the right direction. “Ontario seniors now routinely wait 1-2 years for appropriate long-term care, with crisis lists often 6 months long. A solution is needed now,” says Tamblyn Watts. While this budget promises an additional 5,000 by 2022 and 30,000 beds over the next decade, it is not enough soon enough. Additionally, violence and abuse in long-term care has increased to 9 reports a day province-wide, up from 4 a day in 2006. There are simply too few staff, and no minimum staffing levels. More needs to be done in this area on a priority basis.
- Seniors’ Healthy Home Program
CARP is very pleased by the government’s announcement that it will invest over $1 billion over 3 years to a Seniors’ Healthy Home Program. The program will provide up to $750 for every eligible household led by a senior who is 75 years or older, to help offset the costs of maintaining a home in retirement. “Overwhelmingly, seniors would prefer to age at home, rather than in retirement homes or long-term care. While a $750 offset relief program is welcomed, aged 75 is a high threshold, and the benefit is only available to a “senior-headed” household. More could be done to make this benefit accessible for inter-generational families living together,” says Tamblyn Watts.
- Prescription Ontario Dental and Drug Programs
CARP is pleased to learn that starting in summer 2019, the Ontario government will introduce a Drug and Dental Program for Ontarians without extended health plans. This program would reimburse up to 80% of eligible prescription drug and dental expenses up to an annual maximum of $400 for singles, $600 for couples and $50 for each child in a family.
“We’ve heard from our members that affording dental care can be a serious struggle. Seniors routinely forgo dental care due to cost. We welcome this relief and believe it is a significant step in the right direction,” says Tamblyn Watts. Indeed, 60% of seniors do not have a plan that covers dental expenses.
Ensuring that seniors have access to prescription medication is a key priority for CARP. “Eliminating the annual deductible and co-payment for seniors will save the average senior $240 annually. This is a real win for Ontario seniors, who no longer will have to choose between eating and affording prescriptions,” says Tamblyn Watts.
- Home Care Increases
“Consistent and reliable home care is the most effective, lowest cost and most preferred form of care for seniors,” says Tamblyn Watts. This budget promises a $650 million investment over three years, allowing for 2.8 million more hours of personal support and care, and 284,000 more nursing visits and caregiver respite hours.
- Caregiver and Dementia Supports
CARP supports the investment in dementia announced in the 2017 budget and is pleased to see that caregivers will be provided with co-ordinated services. “Dementia and caregiving supports are critically important to Ontario Seniors and their families, but more could be done in this area, and we hope this budget ensures that these issues remain funded and forefront,” says Tamblyn Watts.
- Pension Security in Retirement
CARP commends Ontario for being the only province in Canada with an insurance fund for pensioners. CARP also welcomes the expansion of the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund (PBGF) from $1,000 to $1,500 per month and are pleased these changes are retroactive to cover Sears Canada employees. “While we’re pleased to see an increase to the PBGF, we feel that $1,500 is not sufficient to address the losses that pensioners suffer when employers fail to deliver on their pension commitments,” says Tamblyn Watts, National Director, Law, Policy and Research. CARP calls on the government to index the PBGF to the yearly maximum pensionable earnings as defined by CPP, which is $56,000.
CARP is also cautiously optimistic with the announcement that the government will grant the pension regulator the appropriate tools to oversee distressed pensions, including implementing a disclosable events regime that would alert the pension regulator to issues such as asset stripping or the issuance of extraordinary dividends. “Before entering the insolvency process with significant unfunded pension liabilities, Sears sold off some of its most valuable assets resulting in significantly reduced benefits for pensioners. This kind of unethical business practice should not be permitted,” said Tamblyn Watts.
CARP is also pleased that the government is taking steps to support Personal Support Workers in retirement. “Personal Support Workers are often vulnerable to retiring in poverty,” says Tamblyn Watts. “This investment of $65 million over the next three years to a group Tax-Free Savings Account could move the needle in ensuring a safe retirement for this population.” PSWs who make additional contributions will have their contributions matched to a maximum of 2.5% of their earnings.
- Investor Protection
CARP has long advocated for the need to restrict and regulate the use of titles related to financial planning. This budget promises to develop a framework to regulate financial planners in Ontario. “You shouldn’t be able to put a title on your business card just because it sounds good,” says Tamblyn Watts. CARP calls on the government to develop a tight and informative list of approved titles with related proficiencies. Where individuals do not have financial planning approved credentials, CARP recommends their titles include the word “salesperson.”
- Hospital Wait Times
“Older Ontarians need to be able to access hospitals and medical procedures quickly and safely,” says Tamblyn Watts. CARP welcomes the significant investments in hospitals. The budget announced $19 billion over 10 years to build and renovate hospitals, and an $822-million investment in Ontario’s hospitals to meet the needs of Ontario’s aging population.