Red tape reduction begins

Aged care providers have welcomed the Federal Government’s move to simplify the pricing system that is to begin next year, as well as raising the amount of deposit that requires approval by the pricing commissioner to $550,000.

Aged care providers have welcomed the Federal Government’s move to simplify the pricing system that is to begin next year, which was described as “cumbersome and confusing”.

The move follows lobbying by aged care peak bodies to change the price setting regime developed by the previous Labor government, ahead of its introduction on 1 July 2014.

They argued the prescriptive process it entailed and the paperwork required was excessive, with providers having to determine and document whether factors such as the number of lights, type of flooring or view impacted on cost.

Announcing the changes yesterday, Assistant Minister for Social Services, Senator Mitch Fifield said the simplified system would still provide clear pricing and accommodation information to enable consumers to make fully informed choices.

“Under our changes, providers will be required to publish all accommodation prices and information about their facility on the My Aged Care website, their own website, and in documentation given to prospective residents,” Senator Fifield said in a statement.

“Prices that begin on 1 July 2014 will be published from 19 May 2014, giving consumers notice of prices and payment options.”

Senator Fifield also announced the government was increasing the amount of deposit or daily payment equivalent that requires approval by the Aged Care Pricing Commissioner from $455,000 to $550,000.  In line with the Aged Care Financing Authority’s original recommendation, about 5 per cent of proposed prices will require an application to the commissioner. That threshold will be reviewed by government after 12 months, he said.

The government will consult with providers on establishing industry guidelines for setting accommodation prices and the process for providers to claim a higher level of government accommodation supplement after a significant refurbishment, Senator Fifield said.

Providers, consumers respond

Catholic Health Australia welcomed the reduction in red tape.

CHA had raised the issue with Senator Fifield in a letter on 4 October, in which it said the level of prescription entailed and paperwork required was “excessive relative to the policy objective”.

“While guidance on what factors to take into account when determining prices is not unreasonable, the level of detailed prescription of the documentation required to be prepared and maintained by the provider as embodied in the draft guidelines represents excessive and costly interference in management prerogative,” the letter from CHA chief executive officer Martin Laverty said.

“In our view, this case is a perfect example of where regulatory red tape is needlessly excessive relative to the policy objective and generates a significant and unnecessary paperwork and cost burden on providers. Many providers will need to engage external consultants or use existing staffing which will divert resources from direct care delivery.”

Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) also welcomed the changes, saying it was something ACSA had raised in recent meetings with Senator Fifield and Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews.

“It is great to see the government moving so quickly on this, as we were concerned the new regulations added another layer of regulation in an already highly regulated sector. This will free up time to focus on the care of residents,” said ACSA CEO Adjunct Professor John Kelly.

LASA Victoria’s acting CEO Frances Mirabelli welcomed the government’s recognition of the need for an open, transparent and competitive system.

“We need a system that not only ensures clear and accessible information is available to older people but one that allows our members – the providers of aged care services – to spend the maximum amount of time possible providing quality care to residents.

“We believe the changes announced support this ideal, and we look forward to working with Senator Fifield and his team to implement further improvements to the current reforms,” said Ms Mirabelli.

National Seniors Australia also “cautiously welcomed” the changes.

“The new arrangements will put an end to the lottery of charges imposed by the residents’ ability to pay rather than a set price for those assessed as eligible to pay for their accommodation,” National Seniors chief executive Michael O’Neill said in a statement.

“National Seniors believes that it is essential that accommodation payments set by providers are justified against consistent criteria and that the commitment to increased transparency remains.

“With these measures in place, National Seniors welcomes any reduction to red tape that allows providers of residential aged care to focus on delivering the best possible care to residents.

“Residents and their families need clearer information about accommodation prices and conditions to ensure they can make fully informed choices to suit their needs,” he said.

Tags: acsa, cha, john-kelly, martin-laverty, mitch-fifield, pricing authority,

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