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Coalition’s proposed entitlement system a spark of hope for aged care


The Coalition’s proposal of overhauling the aged care industry by introducing an entitlement system would benefit providers and improve services for aged care residents, says Kevin Rocks, CEO of Holy Family Services.

Holy Family Services was pleased to host a community forum with Shadow Minister for Ageing, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, and other aged care providers to discuss the future of aged care.

Among the key topics of discussion was a suggestion of changing the aged care model from a rationing system to an entitlement system with an itemised schedule of services, similar to Medicare.

This Medicare-inspired system would see care packages being replaced by itemised services which can be prescribed depending on the individual’s requirements. Once assessed, older Australians would be able to reach out to aged care and community service providers to access the services they need.

From an aged care provider’s perspective, this concept excites me. This system would benefit seniors who would be able to pick and choose individual services, such as a meal service, mobile physiotherapy and personal care, rather than signing up for a whole care packages.

Introducing an itemised schedule in with other recommendations outlined in 2011 Productivity Commission’s report, Caring for Older Australian, would also allow more senior citizens to stay in their own home for longer and place aged care providers in a better position to further tailor their care to the individual.

Developing a system centred on the care recipient would offer them more choice in providers, and this competitive market would result in the development of better and more innovative care programs.

While I support such community care in all forms, there are two key challenges that need to be addressed. The first challenge will be to ensure that this system is driven by the individual’s care needs, not government economics. Enabling elderly people to stay at home for longer should aid their wellbeing and not merely be a measure to save government dollars.

The second challenge will be changing the perception of aged care and remove the stigma that nursing homes are the ‘final destination’. Should we move to an entitlement system, providers will have the opportunity to become an integrated part of the community by providing a variety of health services.

Community integration becomes particularly important for those seniors living at home as it will minimise their risk of becoming socially isolated.

In addition, community care needs to be more than ‘just a meal’ and we should make an effort to understand what the person would like to do recreationally, and enable them to do it. This may be as simple as offering transport to community centres, bowling clubs or day centres.

To make such an entitlement system work and offer these benefits, there must be a change in the dynamics of funding as it would require more contributions from service recipients. Discussing the funding of this model could open Pandora ’s Box, but it certainly needs to be considered in the upcoming election.

Future generations could also be given the option to pay additional premiums to their superannuation or private health care fund in case they require aged care services later in life.

It is my opinion that a bipartisan discussion will be required to identify how Australians can contribute their fair share, while those with limited assets remain a priority for government funding.

Regardless of the outcome of this year’s election, my hope is that new reforms are not imposed from above as they have been previously. The focus needs to be on enabling older Australians to access care where and when they need it, and introducing them with genuine consultation from aged care providers. Surely, this is not too much to ask!

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