Cuts to elderly care saved no money: report

Elderly lady in a nursing home (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Magnus Fröderberg)Elderly lady in a nursing home (Picture: Wikimedia Commons/Magnus Fröderberg)

Enormous budget cuts to elderly care done by the Rutte II cabinet saved no money, according to a study by newspaper AD, De Groene Amsterdammer and Investico. The Rutte II cabinet thought to save 1.88 billion euros by being less quick to send elderly people to nursing home, but eventually not a cent was left of that amount, according to the study.

Under pressure from the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, the government already reversed about half a billion euros in budget cuts over the past years. Both the nursing homes, district nursing and household care received hundreds of millions of euros extra in an effort to raise the quality of care.  The government will also have to invest an extra 2.1 billion euros in the coming years to get nursing home care up to par, according to the researchers. 

Added to that, health insurers are spending more on elderly care than could be expected from the increase of elderly people. According to calculations by Investico, between 2015 and 2017 almost a billion euros more went to elderly care. And by 2018 that is expected to rise to 2.5 billion euros.

Health insurers' extra elderly care expenses can partly be explained by the fact that an increasing number of elderly people don't manage at home alone, according to AD. More over 65-year-olds need to go to the emergency room after a fall or in a confused state. In 2015 that number increased by 20 percent, according to bureau Fluent. And in the same year the short-term care for elderly people who can't live at home, for example after hospitalization, increased by 87 percent.

A spokesperson for State Secretary Martin van Rijn of Public Health acknowledged that there were fewer budget cuts than agreed upon in the Rutte II government agreement and that elderly care costs are rising. That is "logical" given the aging population, he said to AD. But according to him, the assumption that the government failed to temper medical costs is nonsense. "Without the policy of the current cabinet, healthcare costs would now be billions higher."