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Concerning start to ‘enhanced’ consumer information on My Aged Care

More than two weeks after the launch of new data fields on My Aged Care most home care providers are yet to make their cost information available to consumers.

Since changes introduced on 27 February the government’s My Aged Care website now enables home care providers to disclose the average percentage of home care package funds available for service, average evening and weekend surcharges and pricing schedule information.

While these fields are not mandatory to complete, the government’s intention was to increase transparency for consumers and assist them to make informed decisions in a competitive market.

But an analysis by Community Care Review shows the vast majority of providers are not providing this information.

When asked if a delay in publishing the data was to blame, a response from a Department of Health spokesperson suggested these providers had chosen not to provide the non-mandatory information.

“Providers have been encouraged to populate all fields including having a link to the providers website,” the spokesperson said.

Sean Rooney

The department said the design of the service finder was based on consultation with both providers and consumers and “allows for flexibility to populate information based on the service model and structure of different businesses.”

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said his peak body was encouraging members to complete all service fields relevant to their business and offerings. He said some members had reported problems with populating the new data fields.

Mr Rooney said providers should not be required to complete all fields.

“Home care providers will determine how best to market themselves to potential clients and this is not something that should be mandated by the federal government,” he told CCR.

Pat Sparrow

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow said providers need to have the ability to negotiate fees and charges with the consumer and to take into account an individual’s circumstances and service needs.

In addition to My Aged Care, many providers also detailed service and cost information for consumers on their own organisational websites, she said.

Why providers are choosing not to detail costs

Community Care Review approached a number of home care providers from across Australia to ask why their cost information was not appearing on My Aged Care.

Large Western Australian home care provider Silver Chain said it will provide relevant fee information on the My Aged Care website, but fees should reflect the circumstances of each client.

“We do however believe that the best way to help our clients is to understand their needs and tailor a package accordingly. The fees are an output of this and are unique to each client,” said executive general manager of social care at Silver Chain Melanie Kiely.

A spokesperson for large not-for-profit provider Uniting said making fee information available to consumers in isolation could be misleading and it wanted to have in-depth conversations with clients about its services.

“We are committed to providing information to customers in a way that’s accurate, accessible and comparable, and are in the process of deciding the best platform for this. It may be that our own website is the most appropriate forum,” the spokesperson said.

CCR is awaiting the responses from other providers.

Ian Yates

Lack of information ‘concerning’

While it was early days in the life of the home care changes, Ian Yates, chief executive of Council on the Ageing Australia, said the scale of the current lack of information was concerning.

He said if providers don’t make their information available on My Aged Care, they created incentives for alternative sites to provide this comparative information.

From a sample of providers analysed by Community Care Review, the average percentage of packaged funds available for services ranged from 56 per cent to 100 per cent.

Related CCR coverage: Exit fees for home care clients top $4,000, data shows 

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This story is being updated as responses to CCR’s enquiries are received.

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3 Responses to Concerning start to ‘enhanced’ consumer information on My Aged Care

  1. Darryl Chapman March 17, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    I would be surprised if many Providers completed these fields. It is confusing enough for consumers already. In a truly consumer driven market the consumer, or their representative, will personally approach a Provider who will fully explain and structure services and costs to meet that individuals’ needs and choices. Few people buy a car at the drive away advertised price, they add accessories, delete unwanted options, and barter on price – so be it.

  2. Cate March 19, 2017 at 1:05 am #

    Recipients of Home Care Packages go through a series of medical and financial assessments to become eligible for these taxpayer funded programs.
    In times past, the recipient then waited in a queue for the required package to become available through an agency. Carers/recipients would then have to search for agencies within their region and contact each one individually for an available package, as then, agencies tendered for these packages.
    At that time agencies would only state the weekly available funds without disclosing the total $ value of the package minus their fees. The only ‘confusion’ was agency nondisclosure. During that time, in one region, a majority of agencies were all charging the same amount in administration fees, a whopping 44% of the total funds available.
    In 2015 one agency issued a draft contract to recipients which included, among other questionable stipulations, a caveat on the the recipient’s home in their terms and conditions. Perplexing enough?
    A recent web search has found no such ‘advertised price’ regarding administration and other fees. A recipient still has to phone each agency to collect this information and there is no ‘barter’ on administration, case management and exit fees.
    These fees are a significant monetary deduction from the total $ value of the package; they are set for managed or self managed, not negotiable and are not based on ‘individual needs’ or ‘choice’.
    It appears that some government funded programs are always open for exploitation…the jobs network/Jobs Services Australia, the vocational education VET Fee Help…
    Perhaps in the future eligible recipients can ‘buy’ a Home Care Package from a car dealership. The suffering, the diseased and their carers might be less confounded.
    The buying a car analogy is obtuse.

  3. Lyn April 18, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

    Everything I read tells me we are trying to make the client fit the service. The whole MAC experience is about what MAC need and not a lot to do with what the client needs or the capacity they have to navigate the system.
    Surely the whole idea of CDC is to give the consumer more control. Part of that control is being able to negotiate an individual package with the provider and I disagree that there is no barter. It is very competitive out there, which probably explains the reluctance of providers to disclose to their competitors.

    The ridiculously high exit fees also mean of course that the client will have little or no funds to transfer. The exit amount should be capped immediately.

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