Members of the Aged Care Taskforce have confirmed their interim report, due for publication this month, will not outline any concrete plans for the financial sustainability of the aged care sector.
On Wednesday, at the Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) National Conference in Adelaide, a panel of Taskforce members revealed their interim report would not conclude a definite path forward for the funding of aged care and the assurance of quality care.
The Taskforce is set to deliver its final report in December 2023 with the interim report due this month and was established by Aged Care Minister Anika Wells to review funding arrangements for aged care and develop options for a system that is fair and equitable for everyone in Australia.
Conference MC and former host of ABC TV’s Q+A program, Tony Jones, was joined by ACCPA’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Tom Symondson, StewartBrown Senior Partner Grant Corderoy, ACH Group’s Non-Executive Director and Chairman Mary Patetsos, former Deputy Treasury Secretary Nigel Ray, and HammondCare CEO and former NSW Premier Mike Baird to discuss the future financial sustainability of the aged care sector and answer questions from the audience.
The panel discussed their job of considering the nuance and delicate situations older Australians, their families, providers and the Government face when deciding on a new financial model for aged care which will likely influence the new Aged Care Act set for reform next year.
Two models were predominantly highlighted – a levy that would see taxes raised to account for the huge costs of the aged care industry or a co-payment model where lifetime means tests would be altered to allow wealthier older people to pay more for their care.
During the discussion, panellists alluded that the interim report would not signal any definite solutions to this predicament.
“[The Taskforce is] a very robust group and all of us are open to listening to each other and also speaking our minds which has been fundamental to the process and it’s one of the reasons why the interim report I think correctly, at this point, doesn’t land anywhere,” she said.
Mr Baird – who was on Q+A with Mr Jones during his time as Premier – was asked by the MC if a tax on all Australians to fund aged care was appropriate as it may have “a tinge of socialism to it”.
Mr Baird said that during his Premier tenure during the tax debate, he advocated for a hypothecated increase in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) towards health but confirmed he no longer has that stance.
“The demands on Government funding far outstripped what they’re going to produce.
There’s this massive demand and you haven’t got the funding, so how do you deal with that?” he said.
“Whether it be through the taxation system, whether it be through contribution, they’re the things that you have to consider.”
The conversation about aged care cost and questions about its sustainability have been rife in the build-up to the interim report as most providers continue to operate under severe financial pressure, with 70% of residential aged care homes running at a loss in the third quarter of 2022.
Similarly, the idea of wealthier older Australians contributing more to their care has ruffled some feathers amongst providers and consumers, but Mr Symondson said co-contribution is not a new thing in aged care and confirmed the Taskforce is consulting with both consumers and stakeholders to produce a well-rounded recommendation.
“Each option had to be incredibly well thought through – they’re multifaceted, they have different solutions to them within the solutions, so we’ve had to ask people who are not part of the Taskforce questions none of us or the Government have the answer to.
“We have to do that by the final report in December and I know we will because we won’t leave the room until we’ve done so. All of our credibility, individually, is resting on that.”
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