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Government should stop rationing aged care: CHA

Aligning care fees and subsidies for people receiving care in their own home with residential aged care will encourage ageing in place, blueprint document said.

Access to aged care should be an entitlement of all older Australians and be funded according to need not a quota, Martin Laverty, CEO of Catholic Health Australia has said.

“Most Australians assume aged care is available to all. It’s not. Under an old Howard Government formula, it’s rationed,” Laverty said.

The nation’s largest non-government provider of hospital and aged care services has released its policy blueprint calling for lifted restrictions on the services providers can offer.

Aligning care fees and subsidies for people receiving care in their own home with residential aged care will also encourage more Australians to age in place, which is often their preferred choice.

There is currently not enough flexibility of supply in the sector to match care needs with the appropriate services, said Laverty.

Individuals should be able to determine their mix of services and who and where these services are received, he said.

“The federal government’s aged care program currently allocates only 22 per cent of its care support to enabling people to live in their own homes.

“If government instead adopted consistent care packages across community care and residential care services, people would be able to choose whether to stay at home or move into a residential service.”

The development of quality of care indicators will also enable families and carers to compare services and choose the most appropriate type of care. Aged care fees will in turn be based on this quality benchmark.

The blueprint recommends HACC providers receive funding on a per capita basis for each client who chooses to enrol in their service.

“The per capita amount could be reviewed to reflect the profile of each provider’s client group including, the degree of rurality and cultural diversity of the client profile and client capacity to contribute towards the cost of their care and support,” the policy document said.

Providing incentives to increase the supply of allied health assistants will further improve the capacity of providers to deliver at home aged care with a focus on restoration and independence. Assistive technologies will play an important role in delivering care at home and requires greater funding.

“The arrangements for funding capital investments are not well developed. In particular, they are not geared to allow service providers to take advantage of the increasing availability of innovative technology to improve service delivery.”

To better integrate sector policy around consumer choice, assessment and eligibility, the blueprint supports the quick federal take over of aged care.

The current Aged Care Assessment Team structure should also be abolished and replaced with a nationally administered network of aged care access centres, the document said.

Such an arrangement will offer a fair, consistent and timely assessment service and common entry point for all aged care services.

An abrupt move to increase consumer choice may pose risks to the continuity of services as current regulated ratios will most likely fail to align with consumer preferences, said Laverty.

“In order to manage these risks to continuity of service for vulnerable people, it is essential that the implementation of the reforms be accompanied by transition arrangements for the phased introduction of greater choice which would allow a reasonable period for adjustment and clear timelines and milestones.”

Catholic Health Australia’s policy blueprint is available at www.cha.org.au/policy

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