Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Questions (661)

Finian McGrath


661. Deputy Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Health if he will clarify the situation regarding rental income and sale of property in relation to the nursing homes support scheme fair deal scheme (details supplied). [8078/13]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme is a system of financial support for individuals in need of long-term nursing home care. Under the Scheme, nursing home residents contribute towards the cost of their nursing home care based on their means, and the HSE pays the balance.

The person's contribution towards the cost of their care is calculated based on 80% of their income (which would include any rental income) and 5% of their assets per annum. If the person is a member of a couple, the assessment is based on half of the couple's combined income and assets. It was announced in Budget 2013 that the asset contribution will be increased from 5% to 7.5% per annum. The legislation underpinning the Scheme must be amended before this change can take effect.

The Scheme contains several important safeguards which ensure that both the person in the nursing home and their spouse/partner, if applicable, are adequately provided for:

Nobody will pay more than the actual cost of care.

1. The first €36,000 for a person's assets, or €72,000 for a couple, is not taken into account during the financial assessment.

2. The principal residence is only included in the financial assessment for the first three years of a person's time in care. This three year cap can also apply to family farms/businesses in certain circumstances.

3. Where an individual's assets include land and property in the State, the contribution based on such assets may be deferred and collected from their estate. This is the optional Nursing Home Loan element of the scheme.

4. Individuals keep a personal allowance of 20% of their income, or 20% of the maximum rate of the State Pension (Non-Contributory), whichever is the greater.

5. If there is a spouse/partner remaining at home, s/he will retain 50% of the couples income, or the maximum rate of the State Pension (Non-Contributory), whichever is the greater.

6. Certain items of expenditure, called allowable deductions, can be taken into account during the financial assessment. These allowable deductions include health expenses.

7. There is a financial review mechanism which takes account of the fluctuating value of assets and the fact that cash assets will naturally deplete over time as payments are made to the nursing home etc.

If a person avails of the Nursing Home Loan, the money advanced by way of the loan must be repaid as follows:

- If the repayment arises because of the death of the person in care, it must be repaid within 12 months of the date of death. Otherwise interest will apply from the date of death.

- If the repayment arises because the property is sold/transferred during the person in care’s lifetime, it must be repaid within 6 months of the date of the sale/transfer, otherwise interest will apply back to that date.

If a person's principal residence is sold (whether or not they are availing of the Nursing Home Loan), the proceeds of the sale are treated as cash assets and would not be subject to the three year cap. Cash assets are currently taken into account at 5% per annum for as long as the person remains in nursing home care.

The Scheme includes a five year anti-avoidance mechanism, i.e. any income or assets transferred within the five years prior to applying for the scheme are taken into account in the financial assessment. This is necessary in order to ensure that the scheme is fair to all and financially sustainable.

It is not clear from the details supplied who is the applicant in the case referred to by the Deputy. I would, therefore, suggest that the individuals in question contact their local Nursing Homes Support Office which will answer any queries they have about the Scheme. A list of the Nursing Homes Support Offices is available on the HSE's website at: http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/Find_a_Service/Older_People_Services/nhss/nhss.html#offices.