Fresh calls to save aged care from budget cuts

In this tight fiscal environment, many organisations have made cost-neutral and cost-saving recommendations in the lead up to the 2014-15 Federal Budget.

Measures to reduce red tape, a continued commitment to implement aged care reforms, and a promise not to increase out of pocket health expenses are common recommendations put forward by aged care stakeholders in the pre-budget submissions.

In this tight fiscal environment many organisations have made cost-neutral and cost-saving recommendations.

But some, including Alzheimer’s Australia, have also called for new funding to be allocated in the 2014-15 Federal Budget and a provider peak has reiterated calls for aged care to be quarantined from budget cuts.

Following is a round up of what some of the key players are calling for in the lead up to the May announcement.

Aged & Community Services Australia

Aged and Community Services Australia’s pre-budget submission reiterates calls made in its submission to the National Commission of Audit that aged care services be quarantined from any budget cuts. ACSA has suggested 14 measures to reduce red tape to achieve cost savings for government and providers.

Those measures include simplifying the ACFI (Aged Care Funding Instrument), ACAR (Aged Care Allocation Round) and place transfer application processes; renewed calls for the introduction of an entitlement system; and consolidating multiple community care provider contracts;

Other recommendations include allowing a single audited financial statement to meet all reporting needs; transportable police and finance checks; and replacing the yearly training statement with a training compliance clause in the contract.

ACSA also suggests revising the new regulations around accommodation pricing; the time in which DoHA needs to be notified in the case of a missing person; the procedures for infectious disease outbreaks and emergency situations; and the current accreditation and inspection system away from a one-size-fits-all approach in favour of a best practice or certification process.

Alzheimer’s Australia

Alzheimer’s Australia’ budget recommendations are focused around its campaign to create a dementia friendly Australia and the government’s commitment to provide an additional $200 million over five years for dementia research, implement and build on the 2012 aged care reforms, and implement the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

It is calling for $5 million over three years to support a program to tackle the stigma and social isolation associated with dementia, create 20 dementia friendly communities, and train Centrelink staff to better communicate with clients with cognitive impairment.

It is further calling for $10 million over three years to build on the Younger Onset Dementia Key Worker Program by progressively expanding it to people of all ages with dementia.

The other recommendations are as labelled as cost-neutral and include a commitment to aged care reform initiatives to achieve timely diagnosis and improved dementia care in hospitals; using the $1.2 billion workforce supplement funding to improve the quality of the aged care system through supporting the workforce; a benchmark for aged care waiting times; and clarity for the disabilities and aged care sectors around assessment and services for people with younger onset dementia.

COTA Australia

The COTA Australia budget submission is recommending that government use this budget to develop a whole-of-government plan to dealing with the ageing population that would set the policy framework for future actions. COTA has made 14 recommendations in the areas health, aged support and care, workforce participation, housing and homelessness, and income support.

Among the recommendations are calls for current aged care reform agenda strategies to support increased demand and improved service delivery to be enhanced and continued; a reorientation of the aged care service system to an approach that is consumer directed and takes a restorative approach to service design and delivery.

It is also calling for a systematic review of Medicare to ensure it is accessible by all Australians as well as a commitment not to introduce any initiatives that increase out-of-pocket expenses for health services.

The other recommendations seek to increase workforce participation of older people; address shortages in affordable housing, and improve the Newstart allowance for single people and allowance income support indexation.

Carers Australia

In Carers Australia’s pre-budget submission, the peak body representing Australia’s 2.7 million unpaid carers has focused on the continuing need to provide support to carers to improve their resilience and sustain their caring role as well as regulatory changes to enable long-term carers to return to work once their caring role has ended.

Among the seven recommendations are calls for the aged care reform schedule to be revisited to ensure effective implementation of each reform, including the introduction of new Carer support Centres.

It is also calling for no reduction in 2013-14 government investment directed at changing the balance between community aged care and residential aged care, such as the expansion of consumer directed Home Care packages and a more integrated and flexible Home Support Program.

Carers Australia also endorses Alzheimer’s Australia’s recommendations to better support the carers of people with dementia, which include investing $15.5 million a year to develop dementia specific respite services and a cost-neutral trial to evaluate allowing consumers to cash out the value of respite services to in order to purchase the services they need.

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia’s budget recommendations focus on reducing waste, out-of-pocket expenses, primary healthcare investment, health funding models and listening and responding to the needs of consumers.

Among the many recommendations are calls for the government to accelerate price disclosure to ensure the price government pays for medicines aligns with the market price; introduce new pricing mechanisms for medicines listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS); and not enter into a new community pharmacy agreement with the Pharmacy Guild Australia until the conclusion of both the audit into the current agreement and a Productivity Commission inquiry.

It is further calling for the government to initiate a national inquiry into out-of-pocket expenses; not introduce budget initiatives that seek to increase co-payments for health services; work with the states and territories to implement a national ambulance funding arrangement; and include dental services in Medicare.

Elsewhere it recommends the government identify ways to replicate good practice across the Medicare Local Alliance; fund a pilot of personal health budgets for people with chronic and complex conditions to be delivered through Medicare Locals; and fund the development and implementation of consumer experience measures in the Australian health system.

Tags: acsa, alzheimers-australia, budget 2014, budget-submission, carers-australia, chf, cota,

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