Industry peak body, Aged and Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA), believes that “restrictive capping” of home care fees – as has been put forward by the Government – could limit a consumer’s choice when accessing aged care services.
The analysis by ACCPA, Home care fees and choice: Analysis of data on fees and market share, found that package and care management fees are already lower than package and care management costs.
The organisation believes that fixing fees and charges could result in quality providers changing business models at the “expense of person-centred and outcome-oriented care”.
The Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022, which passed the House of Representatives last week but is yet to pass the Senate, would result in the capping of administration and management fees, as well as removing exit fees for consumers leaving a provider to go to another.
Instead of legislated pricing limits, ACCPA suggests:
Interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of ACCPA, Paul Sadler, said the organisation is concerned the Bill before Parliament could give the Federal Government “wide-ranging powers” to cap any home care fee at any level without any Parliamentary scrutiny.
“ACCPA respects the Government’s Election commitment and is willing to support rules targeted at unreasonable outlier administration and management fees, but not changes that would require a wider restructure of home care prices,” said Mr Sadler.
“It may also inadvertently remove the option for providers to raise prices in order to pay for higher wages in the context of severe workforce shortages.”
Mr Sadler said it is imperative that all pathways towards aged care services remain accessible and do not limit the choices of older people and their families, and that any changes should empower consumers with a range of options that suit their needs and financial circumstances.
ACCPA also stated that higher administration costs are “largely driven” by the design of the home care system.
The Older Persons Advocacy Network (OPAN) isn’t so convinced that the home care fee caps will impact older Australians’ choice of providers.
Mr Gear said that OPAN is supportive of the capping of selected fees and charges in home care because older people often tell the organisation that they have been impacted by high administration fees and experience significant changes year on year.
While he noted that there were some providers who charge reasonable fees for administration and management, some providers do not.
“Constraining the top charges that are allowed to be applied should drive more choice and control because it will mean money to go back into care,” said Mr Gear.
“We do want to see appropriate controls in place so there is no cost shifting into direct care charges. We are looking forward to working with Government, home care providers, and ACCPA to get more detail on what is a reasonable cap and how to put appropriate mitigations in place so it doesn’t go and reduce care for people.”
Mr Gear adds that OPAN is very pleased with the removal of exit fees within the Bill, as it will also give people more choice and control.
He said one of the main reasons older people don’t switch providers, even if they are not satisfied, is because they will be charged exit fees.
Amendments were made to the reform Bill last week, which assisted in it passing the Lower House.
Mr Gear said that the amendments were moderate and provided clarity around the exemptions and other expectations.
While he recognises that the aged care sector is facing workforce challenges and the organisation wants to support the sector and Government to find workforce solutions, he said this shouldn’t be at the expense of an older person not being able to access good nursing care.
“[The Bill] had sensible clarifications, we want to work with them now on any subordinate legislation that supports its operations,” said Mr Gear.
To view the full analysis, head to the ACCPA website for more information.