The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is to provide advice to the government on the issue of fees and financial arrangements in aged care, as concerns mount over recent changes.
Minister for Aged Care Ken Wyatt says he is convening a roundtable within the next month where “some very key figures” including representatives from ASIC can advise him on the issue.
In addition, the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner Rae Lamb has been meeting regularly with key sections of the Department of Health over frameworks that need to be considered in light of complaints she has been handling, Mr Wyatt said.
Speaking at the Aged and Disability Advocacy Australia conference last week Mr Wyatt said he did not want to regulate “unless we have to” as red tape took people away from frontline services, but the government would act to protect vulnerable individuals.
Since the latest changes were introduced to home care last month, aged care providers are now required to disclose the exit fees they charge consumers who leave their service.
But the disclosure of other financial information – such as the average percentage of package funds available for service – is not mandatory and the vast majority of organisations are not providing it, as AAA’s sister publication Community Care Review recently reported (read story here).
There are reports of some providers including controversial conditions in home care agreements. At the conference on Friday Minister Wyatt was told of new contracts in home care that include a provider claim on the client’s property as a guarantee for any unpaid fees.
Spirited defence of rural, remote services
Elsewhere, Minister Wyatt reiterated his passionate support for ensuring the sustainability of aged care service provision outside of metropolitan areas.
“I will not uncap aged care until rural, regional and remote Australia are safe from having places drained from country towns,” he said, referring to the Aged Care Roadmap’s proposal to deregulate the allocation of places.
“Aged care in any small town is as important as the bank or the school, if you take them out you break up the social capital of the town, and I don’t want that to happen.
“I don’t want to be a minister who leaves a legacy of having a lot of rural aged care centres shut down because big players take the places… I don’t want a two-tier system.”
Minister Wyatt pointed out the Commonwealth had increased the viability supplement paid to rural and remote providers, but said he would continue to look at options and solutions for rural regional and remote Australia.
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