The Albanese Government introduced legislation on Tuesday to deliver on its election commitments to fix the aged care crisis and respond to the royal commission’s recommendations.
Two bills were presented before parliament: the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 and the Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022.
Included in the implementing care reform bill is the requirement for aged care homes to have a qualified registered nurse on site 24/7. However, the bill allows facilities to apply for an exemption.
The bill also sets to improve transparency across the aged care sector, with measures to monitor care delivery costs. This will lead to the publication of more detailed information about what providers spend on care, nursing, food, maintenance, cleaning and administration.
Home care reforms are included, too, with a cap placed on administration and management fees as well as a ban on exit fees.
Also introduced during the 47th parliament’s first business day, the royal commission response bill, which contains nine measures to implement urgent reforms to the aged care system and responds to 17 recommendations of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
This bill will provide the legislative framework for the new AN-ACC funding model for residential aged care homes, which will replace the Aged Care Funding Instrument in October 2022. It also extends the functions of the hospital pricing authority and renames it to Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority.
“We are wasting no time getting on with the job with fixing the aged care system,” said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in a statement. “The introduction of this legislation is the first step towards delivering new funding, more staff and better support to the sector, while improving transparency and accountability.”
In the same statement, Minister for Aged Care Anika Wells said: “We have introduced urgent legislation for a new funding model that will increase funding to aged care providers. This legislation demonstrates our commitment to making public what aged care providers are spending their money on, ensuring a fair and transparent system for our older Australians and their families and carers.”
Also included in the royal commission response bill is the introduction of a star ratings system, which will see the Department of Health and Aged Care publish a comparison valuation for all residential aged care services by the end of 2022.
“Publishing star ratings for residential aged care homes will help people meaningfully compare services to make the right choice for themselves or their loved ones,” said Ms Wells.
Peaks welcome reform measures
In response to the slew of legislative measures presented to the lower house, Aged & Community Care Providers Association interim CEO Paul Sadler said the peak body looked forward to working through the implementation detail, particularly regarding the level of transparency around the independent pricing authority and the rigor of the methodology for the star ratings.
“Most of the schedules in the royal commission response bill were scrutinised by a select committee in the previous parliament, so ACCPA is comfortable to support its passage quickly,” said Mr Sadler.
“We also support in-principle the delivery of the government’s election commitments through the Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 and look forward to the opportunity to scrutinise the implementation of these measures.”
Among ACCPA’s concerns is how the home care pricing changes will impact both consumers and service providers. However, Mr Sadler said: “We look forward to working with government to ensure more staff, more funding and more transparency from all parties to deliver a world-class aged care system for older Australians.”
Meanwhile, Council on The Ageing Australia chief executive Ian Yates said the introduction of two aged care reform bills so soon into the new parliament indicates a welcome priority for aged care reform.
“These bills are crucial steps in a reform process that, when fully implemented, will ensure Australia will finally enjoy the quality aged care system all older Australians deserve”, said Mr Yates.
The Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation also welcomed the aged care legislation. “This is a truly historic day for ANMF members working in aged care,” said ANMF federal secretary Annie Butler.
While noting that the implementation of the reforms will take some time and will need to be phased in over the next two years, Ms Butler said their introduction to parliament “marks the first real step towards actually fixing the aged care sector.”