PC’s new mega-agency to regulate aged care

A new independent aged care regulatory agency would abolish the role of aged care commissioner and minimise DoHA’s future role.

By Keryn Curtis

A new independent regulator will oversee the quality of both residential and community aged care under recommendations set out in the Productivity Commission’s draft report, Caring for Older Australians, released today. 

The new ‘Australian Aged Care Regulation Commission’ would also see a much diminished role for the Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) and the abolition of the role of Aged Care Commissioner.

The new regulatory agency, which would be established under the Financial Management and Accountability Act 1997, would perform compliance and enforcement roles relating to accreditation standards across both residential and community aged care services. DoHA would be stripped of most of its current regulatory responsibility except for the development of regulatory policy, including quality standards and advice.

The Productivity Commission’s draft report says a number of submissions suggested a single regulator should be responsible for both residential and community aged care. It quotes a submission from Mercy Health saying: “If the funding model for aged care is to change to one covering both residential and community care, then it would be appropriate to implement a regulatory system that encompasses both areas.”

Within the proposed new Australian Aged Care Regulation Commission (AACRC), the existing Aged Care Standards and Accreditation Agency (ACSAA) would become a statutory office with its own Commissioner for Standards and Accreditation. 

A further division of the AACRC would assess, transparently recommend and monitor pricing and indexation of aged care services.

The Productivity Commission report says that, with the proposed move to a single independent regulator and the proposed operation of ACSAA as a statutory office within that body, it envisages the residential and community based care accreditation processes would be streamlined.

“In particular, the Commission proposes that AACRC have responsibility for approving both community and residential aged care providers for Government subsidised services and the right to limit, suspend or terminate such approvals where there is non-compliance.

“On-going approvals of residential and community care providers would be dependent on maintaining appropriate accreditation (as  necessary) together with compliance with other aged care regulations. […], appeals against the decisions of AACRC would be to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Finally, the multi-role AACRC would also become the ‘national aged care data clearinghouse’ – another role formerly adopted by DoHA.

According to the draft report, “Its [national aged care data clearinghouse] role will include coordinating, storing and distributing aged care data and allowing for greater access to datasets for researchers, policymakers and the community at large.”

“This will not only assist the various decision makers in the sector (particularly under a more market-based and consumer-directed regime) but –through a stronger evidence base – also help to ensure that aged care policies are soundly based.”

The draft report says many submissions to the inquiry had complained about difficulties in accessing aged care data. It also noted the potential conflicts of interest currently arising from “DoHA’s role as policymaker, evaluator and main data repository for aged care.”

Three new Commissioner roles

In addition to the Commissioner for Standards and Accreditation, the new AARC would see the establishment of two other full time statutorily appointed commissioners – a Chairperson and a Commissioner for Complaints and Reviews.

According to the draft report, “to facilitate feedback loops between complaints and the regulator’s compliance and enforcement activities”, the complaints handling and review processes should both be handled by a division of the AACRC.  The report says the new structure, including conciliation, referrals and outreach, “together with the referral of all appeals to the decisions of AACRC and the gateway agency to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, means the Office of the Aged Care Commissioner should be abolished.”

Click here to see the full draft report.

Tags: aged-care, caring-for-older-australians, commissioner-mike-woods, pc-report, productivity-commission,

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