Stop put to rest homes 'double dipping'
The contract between district health boards and rest home providers in New Zealand has been changed so that residents can no longer be charged double for their accommodation, after a three-year battle that started in Blenheim.
However, the head of the New Zealand Aged Care Association, which represents rest homes nationally, said the probable outcome of the revised contract would be for rest homes to put up the price of their apartments to cover the cost of reimbursing any "double dipping".
An amendment to the Aged Related Residential Care contract came into force on July 1 and prohibits rest home operators from receiving two rent payments for an individual room, one from its health board and one from a resident.
Peter Burton, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board service director for community-based services, said the updated contract brought greater clarity to the issue of "double-dipping" by rest homes.
Concerns were initially raised by Blenheim man Peter Bruce after it was suggested that his father's rest home was double dipping on accommodation costs from residents who had bought licence-to-occupy units.
His father bought a rest home apartment through a licence-to-occupy scheme for $175,000, with a basic care package costing about $1000 per month.
After his health deteriorated, Mr Bruce's father needed full rest home-level care, which was more expensive and included an accommodation element.
"But we already had our unit, we were essentially providing our own accommodation," he said.
Mr Bruce only noticed the double payment because his father, who has since died, was not subsidised by the health board. "If you are subsidised you don't even see the money, which goes from the state to the provider [rest home] and since you are getting it for nothing, why would you complain?"
The accommodation portion in rest home-level care has been costed at between $15 and $27 a day by the different parties involved.
Mr Bruce claims he is owed close to $10,000 but doesn't expect to see any of that.
"With the amendment coming into force on July 1 that basically rules out any retrospective payment," he said. "Some would say I have been successful but I feel deflated. I have volunteered three years of my life to bring about this change. It's a bit like doing a year's work and not getting paid."
Mr Bruce feels the district health boards had effectively washed their hands of the problem. "They say it's up to rest home providers and residents to sort out."
Mr Burton said the new contract put an expectation on rest homes and residents to work through any concerns before coming to an agreement, but that the health board could assist should problems arise.
It was no different to buying a house and residents could seek legal advice if they had concerns, he said.
Unsubsidised residents, people who pay privately for their rest home care, were also protected under the contract, Mr Burton said.
The threshold for subsidised care was $213,297.
New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Martin Taylor said rest homes would probably put up the price of their apartments because the price was set on the basis of their yearly outgoings.
If those increased, through double dipping reimbursements, so too would prices, he said.
Mr Bruce said Mr Taylor's comments were alarmist and that he had only the interest of rest homes in mind.
However, Mr Taylor said people could go to a different rest home if they were unhappy with a price.
"There are lots of different options for them. It's up to the consumer what option they want so nobody is being disadvantaged."
The new amendment ensured the rest home operator and the resident were aware of their arrangement before signing a contract, he said.
- The Marlborough Express