Aged care stakeholders are agreed on the need to push ahead with the next stage of aged care reform and have ramped up talks through the National Aged Care Alliance.
NACA is currently circulating an issues paper in response to Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield’s milestone CEDA speech, which opened the door to greater consumer control and further deregulation of the aged care system.
At a forum on consumer directed care in Sydney on Thursday, provider and consumer peak bodies reconfirmed their commitment to work with the Federal Government to move beyond the current Living Longer Living Better reforms.
“It is very difficult to talk about a system that is providing consumers with choice and control if we don’t remove the caps on supply,” said Ian Yates, chief executive of COTA Australia.
He said if an older person was assessed as eligible for aged care they should not have to wait in a queue because of a government limit on the supply of places.
“You don’t go into Centrelink and meet the criteria for age, assets and income for an aged pension and get told ‘sorry the quota for aged pensions is full this year’,” Mr Yates told the forum, which was organised by healthcare products supplier Hartmann.
Industry and government had to work together to move to an entitlement system as recommended by the Productivity Commission in 2011, which included as a first step accurately measuring the current level of unmet demand, Mr Yates said.
Leading Age Services Australia CEO Patrick Reid said it would also be critical to have a conversation with the broader community about the long-term funding of an uncapped system, including the share that would be contributed by the consumer.
“How do we pay for the aged care system of the future when 80 per cent of people’s wealth is in the home,” he asked.
Mr Reid said moving to a market system would also require a rethink on regulatory compliance. “The reform process has to continue. Reform isn’t complete,” he said.
KinCare CEO Jason Howie said while there was agreement on the reform destination, the biggest challenge would be mapping out how to get there.
“Part of the problem we have had in the past is that often the end point is well defined but there hasn’t been the same thought into what steps we need to go through as government, service providers and as consumers in order to get there.”
Mr Howie said a system where consumers had control over their funding entitlement would also create a far simpler aged care system and eliminate many of the challenges currently facing providers and consumers.
Alzheimer’s Australia National Ambassador Ita Buttrose said that, in the next wave of reform, the principles of consumer directed care should also be applied to residential aged care as well as in home care.
Ara Cresswell, CEO of Carers Australia, told the forum that moving forward informal carers should be supported as a consumer in their own right in order to facilitate appropriate access to respite care services.