House: ‘Grave robbers after death’
A cut of inheritance from homes that belonged to financial assistance claimants should be turned over to the Government to help fund the system, the Minister of Health told MPs.
Kim Wilson said money should be recouped in cases where seniors passed property on to family members.
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow health minister, asked if it was possible to examine how financial assistance was “meted out in life, so that the Government is not seen to be a grave robber after death”.
She told the House of Assembly on Monday: “The Government will be able to recoup that money post-death to put back in the coffers so that the Government is not subsidising inheritance.”
Ms Gordon-Pamplin, of the One Bermuda Alliance, said it would “dissuade any practice of saving inheritance while using government money to take care of mummy and daddy”.
But she questioned if it could be tailored “as opposed to creating bad blood after somebody dies”.
Ms Wilson told MPs last month that it was proposed to claw back funds from dead financial assistance recipients in a bid to find ways for the Government “to recover debt and/or offset the cost of benefits”.
She explained: “The department has many examples where parents convey property to their relatives without receipt of benefit.
“The parent is then removed from the home only to seek financial assistance.
“In this instance the reclaim is twofold — one, where a senior conveys a property, receives no benefit of sale and then requests to be a recipient of financial assistance, the Government should be able to recoup a percentage of the funds used to sustain the wellbeing of the senior from the inheritance.
“And two, as expressly stated, if one inherits a property where the owner received financial assistance prior to their death, a portion of sale should be provided to the Government to recognise the benefit that that person received during their lifetime.”
Ms Wilson added: “Nobody wants or intends to deprive seniors of their properties but, in the face of an ageing population and rising need for assistance, the country has to find other ways to fund the long term care of financial assistance recipients.
“It is the fairest to taxpayers that seniors use their assets to fund their care rather than Government paying and their next of kin keeping the asset.”
The proposal came after MPs heard that a reform group had proposed 30 changes to financial assistance and that 17 had been accepted.
Ms Wilson said then: “As a country, we can no longer afford for the state to subsidise persons’ inheritances, as currently happens.”
The suggestions included a plan to ask the Attorney-General’s Chambers to provide “a legal opinion regarding whether a person who inherits a property from a senior who has benefited from financial assistance should be statutorily required to pay back some portion of the funds to Government”.
Another accepted recommendation was to review policies in other countries to see if they recover financial benefits paid to elderly property owners.
But the suggestion sparked concern among families and seniors’ organisations and Craig Cannonier, the Opposition Leader, said that the Government was “continuing its reverse Robin Hood ideology”.