Thursday, January 29, 2009

Aukje de Vries' Diary Day 12

Last night I have read the Ministry’s paper on long-term care once more and have taken notes of the issues, which Anbo might raise. It does not take me long to write down 12 points about which Anbo can voice an opinion or raise a question.

I listen to the radio a lot, to a news station when I am doing things with my hands and classical music when I work and need to think. This morning I hear three consecutive news bulletins with disquieting news. The first one tells us that the pension funds have published figures about their financial position. They have incurred dramatic losses on the stock market and the interest rates seem to have been lowered for them (this puzzles me: banks offer their private clients higher interest rates). Anyway, they must face the difficulties and look for solutions, which could be higher premiums for those who are still at work and lower pensions for the pensioners. My pension fund is called by name as one with serious problems.An hour later the news is more definite: the premiums are going to be raised and the pensions lowered, an hour later it is explained that this may not happen immediately, there will be deliberations first, and the pension funds ask permission to take some extra time than the law allows to redress the situation, so that they do not yet have to take these drastic measures. This is really a scare. Under normal circumstances pensions are raised in proportion to inflation. For 2009 pensions ought to have been increased by 3%. Pension funds are not obliged to do this, they only raise pensions when they can afford it. In December we were informed that we will not get the raise in 2009, but lowering pensions is something I have never heard about in The Netherlands. So far our government has kept assuring us that the Dutch economy is in better shape than that of most other countries, but now it seems only a matter of time before the crisis will hit us also very hard.

There is a second news issue which interests me very much, and which also comes back in the news all day and at night on TV. This is about Mea Vita a huge home care organisation. It serves about 100,000 clients and has 20,000 employees. This organisation has been created only a few years ago by a merger of four already sizeable organisations in different parts of the country. It is also the largest organisation in The Hague. This is where LF has worked. Mea Vita has been in the news before because of financial problems, but now the Junior Minister in charge of long-term care, has written a letter to Parliament describing the situation. The financial problems are acute. The Junior Minister wants to ensure that care can be continued. The financial management has become too complicated because of the mergers and because the organisation has made different contracts with no less than 65 municipalities. This has been brought about by a recent change in the national policy, which has taken home help (house work) out of the long-term care package, and decentralised it to the municipalities. They organise tenders, every municipality with its own conditions, and that explains how there can be so many different contracts. The Junior Minister proposes that the merger will be undone in order to make structures more transparant. This must be scary news for the 20,000 clients of Mea Vita.

Esther has invited me for dinner. She has lit the open fire and has prepared a traditional dish that I never manage to make properly. We chat about everyday topics, because we talk with each other almost every day. Our cats and stray cat Janus are among the subjects we discuss at length. Janus is a Great Problem to us, about which I will tell more later.We conclude we need a cat psychologist (if such an expert exists) to help us understand the feline mind.

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