Sector needs time to bed down reforms: Fifield

Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield has signalled the need for further reform of the aged care sector but said any major changes would be put on hold until the LLLB reforms were bedded down.

 

Mitch Fifield_CEDA_April 13
Senator Mitch Fifield

Assistant Minister for Social Services Mitch Fifield has signalled the need for further reform of the aged care sector but said any major changes would be put on hold until the LLLB reforms were bedded down.

In his first major speech as aged care minister, Senator Fifield told the Committee for Economic Development (CEDA) that it was important to allow the former government’s legislative changes passed last year to take hold.

“We cannot have the next conversation, the next reform, until July’s changes are bedded down and lessons learnt,” he said.

“If we don’t effectively implement these reforms now we will lose the chance for another generation.”

In the Senator’s wide-ranging speech he said the consumer-driven LLLB reforms were a step in the right direction and he would be closely monitoring their implementation. The reforms are due to be independently reviewed in 2017.

But ultimately he said consumers would be the key driver for reform in the sector.

“The old retail maxim ‘the customer is always right’ is being discovered more and more by government and policy makers.”

Senator Fifield said he agreed that public and private dollars should ultimately follow the person rather than the provider and that consumer choice drove competition and service innovation. “Dollars should follow needs. Care should follow choice,” he said.

Looking at the impact on providers, Senator Fifield said the reforms would also deliver greater financial security for the industry and pointed to KPMG modelling conducted for the Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) which predicted a net increase of $3 billion in new accommodation charges for providers in the first year.

“This is about providing greater choice for consumers while ensuring a viable industry.”

Further reform

Echoing Health Minister Peter Dutton’s comments in February about the need for a “frank and far-reaching” discussion on health, Senator Fifield also called for a similar honest and open discussion about the future of Australia’s aged care system.

He said:

“Despite the significant changes coming into effect on 1 July, as a country we are far from finished when it comes to reform in this area.”

Unlike disability, Senator Fifield said Australians could plan for longevity, which made a consumer contribution in aged care a more reasonable expectation.

However, he acknowledged that this was the point in the debate where challenges arose and opinions became divided.

Senator Fifield said he was looking forward to an honest and productive debate to propel the national conversation on aged care forward and said he agreed with the Productivity Commission on the need to strike a balance between individual responsibility, taxpayer affordability and a safety net for consumers who can’t afford to contribute to their care.

“There is more work to do if we are to meet increasing demand over the next few decades within a sustainable funding framework,” he said.

The government would also continue to reduce red tape in the sector, he said, and it was looking at options to simplify applications, accreditation and extend approvals without compromising quality care.

Senator Fifield also said Australia had a world-class  aged care system and countries such as China, Japan, Vietnam and Sweden had sought our advice on aged care.

Tags: CEDA-speech, LLLB reforms, senator mitch fifield,

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