Aged Care Reform: Summed up

Posted on 29/08/2011 by System Administrator. 1 comment so far.

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Aged Care Reform: Summed up

On the 8th August 2011 the long-awaited aged care reform report was released by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

The Productivity Commission’s findings did not paint a pretty picture for individuals facing the need to navigate and secure aged care services and accommodation.

Aged Care processes are difficult to follow and understand for most people who are confronted with the need to access these services for the first time. This then means that people have trouble accessing services as they simply do not know where to start or where to get the right advice.

At a time where older Australians should be feeling most secure, they are actually feeling let down by the current system. There is a lack of choice, limited options and many would argue a lack of quality care.

At present, the government delivers access to care by putting a cap on the number of places and service it will provide. This is its way of keeping costs under control. But this kind of rationed funding means some people who need aged care miss out and others don't get the type of care they need. Older Australians are being forced to sell their homes to pay the accommodation bonds to gain entry into aged care homes.

In addition to the current findings, which aren’t looking crash hot, the aged care sector will be put under further pressure by our ageing population and changing expectations of older people. Research also indicates a decline in the number of informal family carers.

So in layman's terms, the Commission's report reveals that government rules regulating and funding aged care are past their use-by date.

So what needs to be done about it one might ask? First, according to the Commission’s report, fees and prices for those who can afford to pay must be fair and equitable. There needs to be a robust safety net for those not able to do so.

Second, those who can afford to pay more should be able to do so, knowing there will be no need for the forced sale of their family home. It is proposed that this be done by calling on the equity in the family home to help meet daily living expenses and accommodation costs. The Productivity Commission report into aged care called for the introduction of a government backed reverse mortgage scheme. This is said to be something most people will come to find reasonable. New pensioner savings accounts are proposed to allow the elderly to fund their aged care without affecting access to the age pension.

Also, having other payment options for aged care, such as daily or weekly rent, will give people more control over their financial circumstances.

Today, and even more so into the future, older Australians will seek to stay in their homes longer. They want to maintain independence and their capacity to contribute to society. Therefore the type of care delivered, be it in a person's home or in a residential service, should largely be determined by the person themselves.

The report identifies the need for the proposed Australian Seniors Gateway Agency (ASGA) to be introduced. This would be a newly created agency set up to provide information, assessment, care coordination and carer referral services. The report also calls for the creation of an agency to assume many of the regulatory roles currently undertaken by the Department of Health and Ageing. Called the Australian Aged Care Regulation Commission (AACRC), it would also take on responsibility for complaints handling. The Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency would become a statutory authority within the AACRC.

All the above findings are proposed in the commission's report. Many hope they can form the foundations for the government's reconstruction of aged care.

The barriers to proposed aged care reform include the governments worry about the cost, or who pays for what. In addition, reform depends on getting 76 votes in the House of Representatives, and despite the Productivity Commission's evidence of the urgency, 76 votes are not guaranteed.

The government's votes have been promised and we will hold them to that promise. The opposition's votes will be delivered if it recognises it would inherit the problem if elected to government.

Overall there is overwhelming consensus among older Australians and those who care for them that the commission's report offers the basis of an affordable and achievable plan for the future. Reform affordability may be achieved because consumers know if they want choice in services it will involve them making a reasonable contribution towards its delivery if they can.

In return, they will get more choice of services, the opportunity to receive support and care at home, greater control over that care, and overall better quality.

Government and opposition should embrace this consensus and act to fix a broken system to assure that older Australians are respected and cared for as well as they can be.

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19/06/2013 @ 8:57pm

staticdream said:

This is a great article, thanks!

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