Seniors groups have called for improvements to the quality and delivery of information and support given to consumers to help them better understand and exercise choice and control in aged care.
Council On The Ageing Australia said that many consumers reported they were unable to exercise significant choice and control of their aged care services with many saying they felt unsupported or uninformed to navigate a still complex system.
In its submission to the government’s review of the aged care reforms, COTA said consumer feedback indicated a significant lack of information among older Australians about the aged care system.
The group had also identified a need for face-to-face information and support as well as hard copy documents rather than online-only information.
The review’s consultation period has now ended and some 143 submissions in total were received, including those that received an extension beyond the 4 December deadline.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said it was expected people may provide additional information throughout the year for the review to consider and while this information could inform the final report, it would not be published on the department’s website.
‘Consumer support platform’ needed
COTA Australia told the review that a consumer support platform was needed to empower and inform seniors on their rights and responsibilities when utilising aged care.
Similarly, National Seniors called for consumers to be provided with up-to-date, accurate and comparable information on services, with access to clear and simple frameworks for evaluating quality.
It said members reported being confused by the current system, a lack of clear information to help make informed decisions about providers and limited confidence in exercising choice because of difficulties comparing between providers in terms of price, quality and service offering.
“A number of National Seniors members made it clear that the only way to know what providers offer and whether the service was good is through first-hand experience or through information from others with first-hand experience. Members believed that experience was critical because the information provided about a service does not necessarily match the reality,” the organisation said in its submission.
Uncapping supply, meeting demand
COTA Australia said the number and mix of residential and home care places should not continue to be controlled.
“Only with a consumer demand driven system, will we see the necessary level of change to ensure consumers are supported how they wish, when they wish with what they wish,” it argued.
The changes coming from 27 February, where packages will be allocated to consumers rather than providers, offered the department an opportunity to begin allocating the level of home care packages based on assessed needs rather than by package level, COTA said.
As an interim measure, COTA argued the package levels could be converted into a funding envelope cap for home care packages to keep within the allocated budget.
National Seniors said it supported increased competition in aged care service provision, which could be achieved through relaxing the current restriction on places.
However, it said the government should play a role in balancing supply with demand as dismantling the current processes for allocating aged care places could undermine equity. Therefore any such moves should proceed with caution and adequate safeguards, National Seniors said.
National Seniors said it supported moving further to a consumer demand-driven model provided safeguards were in place to ensure equity and quality of care.
Both consumer groups agreed a system guaranteeing residential aged care accommodation bonds was needed with National Seniors saying that lump sum accommodation payments should continue to be guaranteed by government.
National Seniors said that if there were any changes to the current scheme, the cost of providing the guarantee between should be equally shared by government and aged care providers.
“This will spread the costs and strengthen each parties’ interest in protecting lump sum accommodation payments in the future,” it wrote.
COTA agreed that consumers needed a guarantee that their bonds would be returned, but did not stipulate government’s role in this.
“Any changes to arrangements for protecting lump sum deposits must maintain the absolute confidence in the return of refundable accommodation deposits, and must not impose any significant additional costs on consumers, who already make these funds available at no interest, which constitutes a forgoing of income,” it wrote.
The review is due to report on 1 August 2017.
AAA’s full coverage on the review: Aged care reform review: All you need to know
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