- The NACA wants the government to adopt a new, contracted timetable for some elements of its aged care reform package
- The group’s new suggested timetable aims to provide aged care businesses with more certainty, in the wake of the ACFI clawback.
- All but one NACA member endorsed the NACA statement outlining the umbrella group’s new requests.
NACA’s latest statement requesting that the government change its aged care reform implementation timetable, has all but one member as signatories.
By Yasmin Noone
Twenty seven organisations under the 28-strong industry umbrella group, the National Aged Care Alliance (NACA), want the government to change the aged care reform timetable it handed down in April this year in order to help the industry remain viable in the wake of the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) clawback.
According to a debated and majority NACA-endorsed statement, which was released yesterday, the group still believes that the Living Longer. Living Better (LLLB) reform package, overall, will enhance the sector’s ability to deliver quality care in the short and long-term.
But, NACA has stated, there are certain priorities – like the basis of setting prices, subsidies and other funding for quality services – which have not been adequately addressed via aged care reform.
Many of the reform initiatives that address financial sustainability are not scheduled to be introduced until mid-2014. And, according to a NACA spokesperson, measures need to be implemented now to provide financial relief, greater business certainty and compensate for the recently announced claw-back in the ACFI.
“In the meantime [between now and July 2014], many providers are facing income challenges which could adversely impact on staffing levels and service innovation which underpin quality care,” the NACA statement says.
“These financial and sequencing issues need to be addressed to ensure the LLLB reform package successfully achieves its objectives.”
The Alliance has called on the government to bring the scheduled LLLB review of specified care and services forward a year to this 2012/13 financial year.
It has also requested that, following the review’s completion, the government would endorse and adopt the review measures by 30 June 2013, and give providers the ability to charge for additional hotel and lifestyle services.
The government should “bring forward to 1 July 2013 the removal of the low/high care distinction in residential care, introducing the LLLB accommodation payment arrangements, currently scheduled for 1 July 2014”.
“An independent and comprehensive cost of care study [should] to be undertaken urgently to establish realistic pricing for quality care and accommodation (including adequate indexation).
“Adoption of the recommendations from such a study would ensure quality services are available for all older Australians from a sustainable aged care system.”
Not everyone’s happy
But, unlike most other NACA press releases and joint statements, this one was not endorsed by all 28-members.
The Association of Independent Retirees was not a signatory to the statement, as it felt moving part of the timetable forward would disadvantage some consumers.
Spokesperson for the association, Richard Gould, said that while his group agreed with “a substantial part” of the NACA statement released yesterday, it could not support it in its entirety.
“The reform timetable was drawn up by the government,” Mr Gould said.
“We [NACA] didn’t draw it up.
“The government determined a timeframe [for reform] after a very long period of consultation.
“…What that did was give people who are affected by [increased accommodation] fees an opportunity to plan and look ahead to their future.
“And, the grandfathering provision says that…someone who is entering aged care just before the new system is introduced on 30 June 2014 will not be impacted by the extra fees if the fees go up. So that’s a two-year lead time for consumers to plan for their future.”
Mr Gould also said the association did not endorse the suggested new timeframe because, “we really don’t have (to our satisfaction) all the details about what accommodation fees are”.
The Association of Independent Retirees said wants to stick to the original two-year timeframe because it believes that the various elements of the reform ‘package’ are all linked together. Two years would therefore allow for all the things that need to be worked out to be determined “in a transparent way”.
However, Mr Gould insisted, the association continues to respect and value its position within the Alliance.
“When the press release was put together, we had the option of approving it and agreeing to it or not. And because of the circumstances, we couldn’t [endorse it].
“It’s just one issue where, after a lot of discussion, we took a different view and that was made quite clear to the rest of NACA.
“It’s a healthy sign that we can work closely with so many people in the sector and if there’s an issue in the sector, we can say so.”
Spokesperson for the NACA, Ian Yates, is also the CEO of a consumer advocacy body, COTA Australia.
Yet, unlike the Association of Independent Retirees, COTA put its signature to the NACA statement.
Mr Yates said that his group had always supported the implementation of the LLLB aged care reform package but had never put a date to when certain elements should or should not be implemented.
Therefore, fast tracking specific reform measures agreed upon by 27 out of the sector’s 28 key players (including unions, peak bodies and employers) was something that COTA supports.
The Association of Independent Retirees, Mr Yates said, “will have a degree of nervousness until they see the actual figures for accommodation charge increases] and about what impact it will have on their constituency”.
“We share that concern but we never asked in our initial proposal that those funding arrangements be put off by a certain period of time,” Mr Yates said.
There’s a good chance the government will agree
CEO of Catholic Health Australia (CHA), Martin Laverty, said – as a spokesperson for NACA – that the new statement attempts to deal with recent ACFI issues and partly respond to the sector’s financial woes.
“Part of that [statement] is a response to the uncertainty that the ACFI changes brought about,” Mr Laverty said.
“…There are aged care providers which are not in the position to make business decisions with certainty because of the nature of the way the changes were announced…
“And some of this is in response to the uncertainty of the parameters of the workforce compact that is currently being developed. “
The measures outlined in the statement, Mr Laverty said, will provide more certainty, so providers can plan and structure services, and in turn address some of the uncertainty surrounding the ACFI.
“CHA and other providers are thankful that unions and consumer groups were willing to contemplate the early adoption of these early reforms…that will provide more financial certainty so providers can plan ahead.
“It’s in no one’s best interest for business uncertainty to continue.”
Mr Laverty insisted that NACA’s request to government for a contracted timetable for some elements of reform is not radical or impossible. It’s achievable, he said, as the statement merely endorses the government’s own aged care reform policy.
“We are saying that we back the elements of reform. And we particularly want to see them achieved as soon as possible.
“What we are all seeking in this statement is for the government to commit to the implementation of its already staged government policy, perhaps earlier than proposed, as NACA believes it’s in the best interests of older Australians, staff and providers.
“…[It’s about] turning a good old fashioned crisis into a solution.
“Yes there is uncertainty about ACFI and yes, that has created some tension. Here is the opportunity to get through that.
“Minister Butler has consistently said that he wants the NACA to be his prime consulting body.
“He wants to work with the NACA to implement the reform agenda. NACA is now providing advice to the government to implement its own policy.
“…I have every confidence that, because NACA is now providing advice to the government, the government will work with NACA as it has said it has wanted to do.”
The NACA statement was sent to the minister last week on 25 July.
NACA now seeks a meeting with Minister Butler to discuss a new timeframe.
The government is yet to respond
AAA has contacted the office of Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler for a response to the new NACA statement but it was unable to meet today’s deadline. AAA will notify readers of a response if and when one becomes available, either online or via social media.
Update (10.55am, 1 August 2012): Minister Butler replied to AAA with the following statement: “The government is continuing to engage with stakeholders on implementation of the reform measures, including implementation timeframes.”
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