While the nation paused to say sorry yesterday, an amendment to the 1997 Aged Care Act to implement the provisions of the Howard Government’s Securing the future of aged care package was rushed through the House of Representatives with bipartisan support.

The bill was also designed to introduce the adjustments aimed at addressing the package’s ‘unintended consequences’, announced in the 2007-08 Federal Budget.

The Minister for Ageing, Justine Elliot, said the package was on track to be implemented as planned.

“Subject to the passage of the bill through parliament, it is proposed that the new arrangements will take effect from 20 March 2008,” she said

The passing of the bill through the upper house reduces the likelihood of a possible delay in the implementation of the new Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) which is also due to commence on 20 March.

There had been speculation that the Minister could use the reintroduction of the Howard Government legislation as an excuse for a delay.

The bill contains provisions for a more streamlined arrangement for assessing income and assets as well as provisions for increased accommodation subsidies.

The amended legislation will combine the current ‘concessional resident supplement’ and ‘pensioner supplement’ in a single asset-tested accommodation supplement.

Ms Elliot told parliament that the bill was intended to redress current inequalities between pensioners and self-funded retirees.

For the first time, self-funded retirees with few assets will be eligible for assistance with accommodation charges from the Commonwealth Government.

“While those who can afford it will be asked to contribute more towards their accommodation, the level of government payments will increase for those who cannot meet the costs themselves,” the Minister said.

“The bill removes current anomalies in the treatment of self-funded retirees by creating a new income test that treats all people in the same way and all income the same, irrespective of whether it is a pension or private income.”

Further details of the package will be outlined in amendments to the Aged Care Principles and changes to other delegated legislation.

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