The Federal Government does not support the private member’s bill calling for aged care providers to disclose how they spend government funds because its usefulness is unclear and it pre-empts the royal commission’s final report, the Senate has heard.
The Senate considered the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Financial Transparency) Bill 2020, which was introduced by South Australian Centre Alliance Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie in October, last Monday.
The bill, if adopted would require residential aged care providers to disclose their income, spending on food, medication, staff, training, accommodation and administration and how much they pay their parent bodies for public reporting.
South Australian Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff, who introduced a similar bill in June last year, said current reporting systems were “totally inadequate.”
“Aged care providers have argued that they do their best with the limited financial resources available to them. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not. It’s hard to know, because we don’t have the information to judge their claims,” Mr Griff told the Senate.
“Financial transparency is a reasonable requirement for any sector receiving tens of billions of dollars of public funds, and the cost of compliance will be trivial. Providers already collect this information, and no private information will need to be disclosed,” he said.
However, Liberal senator for Victoria Sarah Henderson said the Federal Government would not support the bill.
“The usefulness of the proposed public information is not clear, because it has the potential to be misleading to consumers,” Ms Henderson said.
“In some instances, there may be reasons why the itemised cost of medical products – for example, incontinence aids – would vary between residential aged care services such that the information would not necessarily assist transparency for consumers,” she said.
Ms Henderson also said the bill pre-empted the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s final report.
“In its interim report the royal commission has been critical of constant change and moving targets. Embracing these proposals or amendments on their own in a piecemeal fashion would not reflect the importance of the government ensuring that our reforms are integrated, cohesive and solutions driven. We don’t want to pre-empt the royal commission. That would be most inappropriate,” she said.
Ms Henderson said the government was working to amend aged care provider reporting requirements from 1 July 2021.
“This requirement includes the provision that all aged care providers are to provide an Aged Care Financial Report… to the secretary of the Department of Health,” Ms Henderson said.
“The revised requirements will introduce more transparency around the operational results of the facilities that a particular provider operates,” she said.
The Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport has been looking into the bill since October and is due to report by the end of March next year.