BC Seniors need better extended health benefits

Many people in the province are facing an affordability crisis. The rising costs of goods and services impacts us all. They especially impact BC seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes. Despite BC having some of the highest cost of living in the country and the worst poverty rate among seniors, BC seniors receive very little support compared to their peers in other provinces. This is especially evident in the limited extended health benefits BC seniors receive compared to seniors in other provinces and territories. 

The Office of the Seniors Advocate report, BC Seniors: Falling Further Behind, finds that BC seniors are falling behind when it comes to access to benefits, services and support. Given that almost half of seniors have an income below minimum wage means many are left to make the tough decision of whether or not they can afford basic needs like vision, dental, hearing, mobility and home support. This isn’t a decision that seniors in provinces like Alberta and Ontario have to make, so why should seniors in BC?

That’s why one of the recommendations that came out of our #BetterCareforSeniors campaign was to eliminate the daily rate co-payment for accessing home support. It’s also one of the recommendations of the Seniors Advocate report. Why do seniors in BC have to pay out of pocket to access home support services when seniors in other provinces don’t?

Having to make the tough decision of whether or not to pay out of pocket for basic services during an affordability crisis will have detrimental impacts on seniors' health. 

Not having access to health benefits like dental care can lead to poor oral health. Daily activities like eating can become a challenge. Not having access to vision care may mean that disease and conditions go untreated. And not having access to hearing aids means more than simply having difficulty hearing. The Office of the Seniors Advocate report states. “​​Speech-Language & Audiology Canada and the Alzheimer Society of BC found that individuals with hearing loss demonstrate an accelerated rate of cognitive decline, an increased risk for overall cognitive impairment and are 2 to 5 times more likely to develop dementia”.

All told, a lack of access to basic health services means an overall decline in one’s quality of life. In addition to lacking funding to home support, many seniors end up in long-term care earlier than is necessary. This costs taxpayers about $59,900 per year, when two hours of daily home support costs less than half on average, saving the taxpayer $31,700 per year.

As a stop gap, the Jewish Seniors Alliance of Greater Vancouver (JSA) created a guide to support seniors accessing extended benefits. But BC needs to do more.

We have partnered with the JSA to demand the government consider the implications of BC seniors falling further behind and advocate for improving extended benefits for seniors. If you’re interested in joining the call, you can use this simple tool that will send your letter in support to your MLA. It only takes two minutes.