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Royal commission to resume, releases new paper on finance

The Royal Commission into aged care has announced it will resume hearings next month after suspending proceeding dues to the pandemic.

Proceedings were suspended on 20 March and the hearing which was due to take place – focusing on mental health, oral health and allied health care in aged care provision – will now take place on 15-17 July as the commission restarts.

Melbourne Hearing 4 will be closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Meanwhile, royal commissioners and staff have continued to work on research and policy development and the commission released a paper coinciding with the restart announcement.

Consultation paper 2 – Financing Aged Care, looks at several options for funding aged care into the future.

One scenario would see Australians stump up for an aged care social insurance scheme to fund the financially failing sector. It could operate similar to existing mandatory schemes such as accident compensation, the Superannuation Guarantee and the Medicare Levy, and be private or publicly run.

In the consultation paper, the royal commissioners state they have yet to arrive at a final figure needed to fund vital sector improvements.

But they said it was likely to be an additional 50 to 100 per cent on top of the current expenditure base.

Another scenario would adapt current funding from general revenue and co-contributions, or earmarking tax for future needs. Future costs could be met via an increase in co-contributions.

The final option included private financing mechanisms used in retirement income policy including superannuation, private insurance and gap cover, or financial products including annuities and reverse mortgages.

Royal Commissioners, Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs, have asked for submissions on the funding options raised in the paper about the future financing of the aged care system.

“Subject to the responses we receive, it is our intention to consider a smaller set of options in more detail and undertake further modelling to inform the recommendations we make in our final report,” the Commissioners said.

“A number of options for alternative approaches to financing aged care are examined in this paper, many of which are employed in other countries. Some of them would be familiar to Australians, while others would be less familiar: such as the purchase of annuities to cover aged care costs or the use of private insurance companies to collect, manage and disburse payment to aged care providers.

“There will be a range of views on the questions we pose in this paper, and there will not always be simple solutions. This is, however, an important debate, and we encourage the Australian community to engage in this conversation in the interests of improving the quality and safety of care for older Australians.”

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