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Budget: Windfall for remote providers

The aged care viability supplement’s remoteness classification will be updated and brought into line with other health programs in a bid to target areas of greatest need more effectively, the Federal Government announced in last night’s budget.

The government will provide $102.3 million over four years from January 2017 to implement the Modified Monash Model in the viability supplement, as recommended in the Aged Care Financing Authority report, Financial Issues Affecting Rural and Remote Providers, and additionally boost the viability supplement for mainstream residential aged care services in greatest need.

Designed to address cost pressures due to isolation and the small size of many rural and remote locations, the supplement currently relies on 1990s’ Census data to classify location, which benefits regions that have since become more metropolitan, while disadvantaging those that have decreased in population in that time.

Residents from some 250 residential services and around 7,000 home care recipients in or near outer regional towns are set to benefit from higher funding. Further, around 100 multi-purpose services, plus an additional five National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Program providers, will also attract a higher viability supplement funding under the new arrangements, according to the budget papers.

The government said the viability supplement would increase for most remote mainstream services and some special needs services, and that grandfathering arrangements would apply to ensure no services or care recipients were disadvantaged under the new model.

The majority of services which stand to benefit are in or near outer regional towns, for example, Holbrook in New South Wales, Childers in Queensland, and Rushworth in Victoria, the government said.

Provider reaction

The funding to improve the targeting of the viability supplement was welcomed by provider peak bodies Aged and Community Services Australia, Catholic Health Australia and Leading Age Services Australia (LASA), however, LASA spokesperson Beth Cameron said it wasn’t enough to compensate for funding cuts made elswhere.

“The additional viability supplement funding, and changes to business tax arrangements announced today are welcome, however in the face of $3.1 billion in cuts, it will have a marginal impact on lifting the financial viability of many providers,” Ms Cameron said.

“Our seniors living in remote and rural areas will not be able to age in place and will need to travel long distances, far from families and friends, to receive the care they deserve, which should be provided close to home.”

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