Aged care sector representatives have welcomed the government’s move to replace the outdated system for aged care payments, which continues to cause major challenges for providers.
Minister for Aged Care Sussan Ley and Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge announced on Wednesday that the Federal Government would replace the 30-year-old system with a new platform to deliver health, aged care and veterans’ payments.
Aged care systems for online claiming, payments and income and asset testing have been causing major problems for aged care providers on an ongoing basis for more than two years resulting in lengthy delays for payments, inaccuracies along with demands for compensation and apologies.
Ms Ley confirmed the new system would be government owned and operated and said that the process to find a solution based on existing commercial technology had begun.
The consultation – to be finalised in January 2017 – would involve health and aged care providers and sector stakeholders to inform the new system’s final design, she said.
‘Long overdue’ replacement welcomed
Both the new system and commitment to consult with the aged care sector were welcomed by the Aged Care Industry IT Company (ACIitC) and the aged care provider peaks.
“All payments remain an ongoing and major challenge for providers,” ACIitC spokesperson Anne Livingstone told Australian Ageing Agenda yesterday.
Lengthy delays in receiving payments continue to cause cash flow issues for providers, delays in means and asset testing advice have increased providers’ exposure to doubtful or bad debts while the lag in receipt of payments and payment summaries from Medicare has led to some distortion in reported results, said Ms Livingstone.
The ACIitC would consult widely to inform the final design and continue to work closely with government to ensure any new systems were introduced appropriately and extensively user tested, she said.
Ms Livingstone added:
“Any new arrangements should include the need for payments not just to move between Medicare and providers, but how these reconcile when clients change providers.”
Aged & Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow said a new payment system could not be developed soon enough.
“Aged care providers have continued to deliver services despite some carrying millions of dollars in unpaid payments due to these major system errors, Ms Sparrow told AAA.
“The cost of these errors to providers has been significant and goes beyond just the money owed. Countless hours have been wasted waiting on telephones or emailing DHS back-and-forth in search of answers and hiring accounting staff to sort out reconciliations,” she said.
“While ACSA acknowledges the efforts undertaken by both departments to remedy these issues, our members are currently reporting increasing errors and levels of frustration with the DHS systems.”
Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said the payments system had been a considerable point of frustration for the aged care sector for many years.
“It has caused substantial delays and problems for providers, often leaving them out of pocket for months at a time, whilst also creating confusion and anxiety for older Australians receiving care and services,” Mr Rooney said.
“While it is encouraging that the government has committed to build a new payment system, it needs to invest now in dealing with the problems industry and consumers are still experiencing while we wait to transition to this new system.”
The project to develop the new system will be led by the Department of Health and supported by the Departments of Human Services and Veterans’ Affairs, and the Digital Transformation Office.
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