05/14/2014 06:42 EDT | Updated 07/14/2014 05:59 EDT

Alberta raises senior long-term care fee cap, covers low-income seniors costs

EDMONTON - Alberta is raising the maximum amount of money seniors can pay to live in long-term care homes by three per cent a year or the inflation rate for the next three years, whichever is higher

The change that starts July 1 will affect 22,500 seniors and is to help cover the costs of food and lodging provided by private operators.

The government says it will pay the fee increases for about 11,000 of these seniors who qualify as low income.

Starting in 2017 long-term care home fee increases are be tied to Alberta's consumer price index.

The government is also increasing the amount of spending money low income seniors in long-term care homes get by $50 to $315 per month.

Together these changes will cost taxpayers an extra $16 million per year.

Dave Quest, associate minister of seniors, said the move will help seniors, their families and private care home operators.

"Introducing predictable accommodation charge adjustments means that residents and families will be able to plan for future needs and care providers will be able to keep pace with inflation," Quest said Wednesday.

The New Democrats say instead of supporting private operators, the government should be building more public long-term care homes.

"Within months of the 2012 election the province raised the cap for seniors accommodation, and the New Democrats said at the time that this would be the first in a series of increases," the NDP's Dave Eggen said.

"This PC government is increasing the profit margins for private operators on the backs of our seniors."

Eggen said there are close to 1,200 seniors waiting for long-term care in Alberta.

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