In a public letter addressed to the Government of Slovenia, our member ZDUS denounces COVID-19 related costs that were charged to infected residents in some care homes. An amount that many of them cannot afford.
ZDUS argues that residents of care homes who have contracted the COVID-19 infection (and were not transferred to hospital) are in need of additional health care as well and additional basic (social) care. ZDUS received several complaints by older people and their families stating that some care homes in the country were charging additional COVID-19 related care costs to the residents themselves or their relatives… and such costs have supposedly risen up to 300-500 EUR more per month.
With the already known high prices of regular care in care homes, residents are unable to make these additional payments. And their relatives are also going through financial difficulties due to the COVID-19 crisis . Many family members have lost their jobs, are not working or still waiting to be called to work, and they receive only emergency financial assistance which makes up for only bare survival.
Health care is a right in Slovenia entitled by the compulsory health insurance, reminds the Slovenian organisation, so it must be fully covered by the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia. Care homes should not impose additional charge for people with COVID-19. Instead, residents in vulnerable situations should be classified into a higher (more expensive) category of health care, which is also paid by the mentioned Institute. ZDUS believes that these extra costs for basic social care in these extreme circumstances should be the responsibility of the state of Slovenia, which finances costs related to COVID-19 from the budget within the framework of intervention measures to help the population and the economy. Also, bearing in mind that patients who are treated for COVID-19 infections in the hospitals or in the nursing wards of the hospitals do not pay anything for treatment received in the hospitals, residents of care homes are therefore being treated unequally compared to other patients.
Therefore ZDUS calls on the Government of Slovenia to solve the problem as soon as possible and to use the COVID-19 dedicated budget to cover residents’ extra cost.
The letter was sent to:
- Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities
- Ministry of Health
- National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia
- National Council of the Republic of Slovenia
- Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia
- Committee on Labour, Family, Social Affairs and the Disabled
- Commission for Social Welfare, Labour, Health and the Disabled
- Consultative group to assist ministries in drafting legal packages of rapid financial assistance to the population for the prevention and mitigation of the consequences of the epidemic
On 15 February ZDUS received a reply from the Ministry of health which was, according to ZDUS, strictly official, referring to the existing normative regulation, but not adressing the problem. Not satisfied with the response, ZDUS will sent another letter to re-iterate its demand.
A key issue for care policymaking and research across the EU
The issue of older people being charged extra fees for costs associated with COVID-19 is not only limited to Slovenia. Some testimonies and media reports in other EU countries such as Spain and in the United Kingdom point in the same direction. Some providers have been charging the so-called ‘COVID tax’ or ‘Coronavirus bill’ to cover for additional costs – a practice that public authorities seemed to be willing to do something about.
AGE members monitor such situations to ensure COVID-19 does not penalise financially older people in need of care and support. This would add additional hardship to the many challenges older people with previous health conditions have already been experiencing over the pandemic, as we have reported in our COVID-19-related work. More systematic evidence around these practices and decisive political action to end them are critical.
To report any other examples of such practices or for more information you may contact Borja Arrue, firstname.lastname@example.org