The Department of Health says the Commonwealth will consult with aged care stakeholders and examine international evidence on the proposal to appoint external third parties to assess residents’ needs to determine government funding.
The discussions with providers and consumer groups over the proposed change were ongoing, and no decision had yet been made, Margot McCarthy, deputy secretary of aged care, told the Leading Age Services Australia national congress yesterday.
“Government will need to think carefully and consult carefully about how to take that forward,” Ms McCarthy said.
The Federal Government proposed the change in its May budget, when it also controversially cut the Aged Care Funding Instrument by $1.2 billion due to a blowout in the tool’s projections – the second in five years.
External assessment of care needs under the ACFI was one option for constraining or managing unexpected growth in residential funding, Dr McCarthy said.
Dr McCarthy acknowledged that moving to external assessment would require additional resourcing, as assessment was currently done within residential aged care by facility staff.
Over coming months the department would consult with the sector, through the Aged Care Sector Committee and specialised working groups, she said.
“We’ll be looking at international best practice, and getting expert technical advice on whether the funding instrument, with all its complexity, is the best way to determine residential care needs and to allocate funding for those needs, or whether there is something simpler that potentially can be delivered externally.”
She pointed out that in the National Disability Insurance Scheme the needs of consumers were determined externally by a third party.
Government funding is increasing
Elsewhere Dr McCarthy told the Gold Coast audience that residential aged care expenditure is expected to grow to $13.9 billion in 2019-20, up from $12 billion in 2016-17. “That’s why the government watches aged care expenditure so closely,” she said.
“In residential care, even after the recent budget savings, funding is continuing to grow at 5.1 per cent per year until 2019-20,” she said.
In light of the legislated review of the aged care reforms it was timely to examine the impact of the changes to consumers’ financial contributions to aged care through income testing and means testing, she said.
“The mix of public and private funding is going to be a very important and sensitive discussion to have in terms of sustainability of the aged care system.”
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