Financing aged care unlikely to be tackled this election: peak

COTA Australia wants all parties to commit to funding and financing aged care through a better balance of taxpayer and user contributions.

Consumer advocacy body COTA Australia wants all parties to commit to funding and financing aged care based on a better balance of taxpayer and user contributions for those who can afford it. However, chief executive Ian Yates said he doesn’t expect this issue to be part of the federal election agenda.

COTA released its election agenda last week calling on all parties to commit to and fund the whole integrated package of recommendations and timelines from the aged care royal commission within the next five years.

Except for those recommendations related to funding and financing – including a levy – which COTA says the commission got wrong.  Aged care financing should instead include a user contribution scheme that is intergenerationally fair and equitable between all service users, and non-discriminatory toward people who don’t have the capacity to pay.

Ian Yates

“It’s a matter of deciding that the proper funding of aged care is a priority,” Mr Yates told Australian Ageing Agenda. But the approach needs bipartisan agreement, which is why it is unlikely to be tackled during the election, he added.

“We have said to both sides that they need to tackle this in their first Budget in May next year,” he said. “Elections are a bad time to do it because bipartisanship is at its lowest. But it needs to be done. And done now before the real pressure from the baby boomers builds up.”

COTA’s list of reform priorities includes commitments on choice and control in both residential and home care; transparency over provider performance, quality, safety, and costs; and the forcing out of poor-quality operators. It also recommends all parties commit to delivering a maximum one-month wait for home care and supporting and funding a substantial wage increase for aged care staff.

Mr Yates told AAA he was concerned the reform process could stall or lose momentum due to resistance from providers and lack of full commitment from the Opposition.

Providers “are really pushing against the regulatory changes that the royal commission recommended” and “we are seeing quite public lobbying in the home care sector against the Support at Home framework,” he said by way of example.

“Aa general point, I have been in many forums in the last couple of months where the providers have argued that they need to significantly slow the reforms down,” he said. “I have no trouble with individual initiatives, but when I have a room full of providers, or a Zoom full of providers saying to the department you’ve got to slow everything down; you have to go and redo the schedule, I say to them, ‘Well, sorry, that’s the government’s schedule and they base that on the royal commission schedule, not slavishly,’” Mr Yates said.

Similarly, Mr Yates wants the Opposition to endorse much of the government’s reform plan, which he said substantially responded to the royal commission’s recommendations and could be backed without political implications.

To date, Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has announced a $2.5 billion package to overhaul the aged care sector in his Budget reply speech in line with some royal commission recommendations including registered nurses on site 24/7, more care workers, higher food standards and additional funding for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. Labor also supports the Fair Work Commission case to lift staff wages.

“I am concerned that we haven’t seen a comprehensive policy statement out of the Opposition,” Mr Yates said. “I think [the reform measures] were professionally developed by the department and there’s a lot of consultation happening about some of them as well. So there’s room to stop and look at the detail. But if we don’t keep the reform momentum going, then I think we’ll lose quite a few of them.”

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Tags: cota-australia, cota-election-platform, federal election, financing, ian yates,

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