The aged care industry has cautiously welcomed news that the Rudd Government is thinking about relaxing restrictions on resident contributions in the 2009-10 federal budget.
Last week government sources told News Limited publications that the ALP is “considering an increase in nursing home fees – but only for wealthier couples”.
Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) CEO, Greg Mundy said increased accommodation payments could provide benefits for consumers as well as aged care organisations.
“The idea of opening up greater equity and new revenue streams can be seen as a positive for everybody,” he said.
“It will help provide the places that are needed into the future; it will help to ensure the viability of provider organisations; and it will address the long standing equity issues between different levels of aged care residents.”
“We have been calling for changes like this for a long time and here we have the first slight indication that maybe our message hasn’t fallen on deaf ears.”
Aged Care Association Australia (ACAA) CEO Rod Young said the comment seemed to be in line with industry thinking but added that there was not enough detail to make an in-depth comment.
“The industry has been calling on this government and the previous government to uncap certain resident contributions while keeping a safety net in place, for some time,” he said.
“I haven’t heard any negative comments from anyone if government were to go down that path.”
But the opposition’s Ageing Spokesperson Margaret May said the government should have committed to the continuation of the Continual Adjustment Payment (CAP) when it chose to decided to reveal information about its budget plans.
The additional 1.75 per cent indexation for recurrent aged care funding was introduced in 2004 to encourage operators to provide high quality care while paying staff more competitive wages.
It was originally a four-year measure but the CAP was extended for 12 months in last year’s budget and is now subject to a review from the Treasurer’s Department.
“Currently 70 per cent of not-for-profit providers are operating in the red and 40 per cent of all providers are in the red,” Mrs May said.
“Older Australians need a guarantee that the funding which provides the care they need will not be thrown out the window.”
Both Mr Mundy and Mr Young said the CAP was the industry’s number one priority in this year’s budget.
But the Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot refused to speculate on the future of the CAP when contacted by Australian Ageing Agenda.
“It is a long standing practice to neither confirm nor deny what is, or is not, part of the budget process,” she said.