COVID-19 is a tragic, unplanned and unpredicted event that is impacting us all, but none quite as hard as the aged care industry that is squarely in the front line, alongside acute care hospitals. 

Providing support for the elderly is both a noble cause and also a vocation for those who do it; and they need to be heralded for their excellent work, dedication and commitment to those they support.

What the industry does not need however is to suffer a “double whammy” that it is ill prepared for, once this crisis has passed. 

In reference to essential community care services, with the increased costs of providing services during these difficult times, and some consumers withdrawing from servicing due to a fear of infection, providers do not need to then confront a major recovery of unspent funds by the government. 

 This is particularly relevant if the recovery is based on provider-based errors in reporting rather than an actual underspend of government subsidies and consumer contributions.

I am not suggesting that staff are not working hard or not trying to do their best in terms of correct data entry and therefore reporting.  However, before providers easily dismiss this assertion with, “I’m sure I’m fine, my team are up-to-date; know what they are doing and all information uploaded is correct.” I would recommend they check their status against the following checklist, if you are reporting unspent funds. 

Have you, preferably monthly:

  • reconciled your funding against the Department Payment Statement?
  • reconciled your revenue against your accounts receivable to ensure that contributions billed agree with contributions received?  If not, is there a debtor that needs to be followed up
  • written off bad debts and are they also written back against your home care management system?
  • accurately recorded all services delivered?
  • checked if your MyAgedCare says a “mark up” is applicable on third party services and is it actually applied?
  • checked that your commencement dates, discharge dates, leave dates and level change dates agree with the Department Payment Statement [note that the Department Statement data is not always correct and any errors need to be followed up]?
  • extended any services beyond the original planned services and if so, assuming they are agreed to by the consumer, updated the management system to recover the extra cost?
  • included travel and staff costs during travel time?  Is it compliant with the relevant Award/EBA and was it charged to the package?

In large part if care plans reflect assessed needs,  are budgeted correctly, then managed appropriately and recorded correctly, there should be limited, if any, unspent funds to worry about. 

Equally, something I have noticed is that providers are not rescheduling cancelled services.  To receive the services required by the care plan, to meet the goals and objectives, consumers need to receive the required level of support. That being so, any service cancelled for whatever reason, should be rescheduled for another time. 

In the current COVID-19 environment, there is a need to review how services are delivered and assurances need to be given to consumers that every precaution is being taken, but the services are still needed and, through the relationship developed based on trust and appropriate precaution, most should still be able to be delivered.

My audits of community care providers have indicated some, if not all the above, are issues that will cost the provider dearly when the recovery of unspent funds occurs.  The time to check is now. 

If you do not understand how to audit your program properly, and/or your software doesn’t assist you to do that effectively, seek assistance from somebody who can help. Otherwise, you may find yourself on the receiving end of a “double whammy” you had no idea was coming.

David Powis is an aged care industry participant with 45 years’ experience and Managing Director at e-Tools Software.