Now that the election results are in, one of the most important areas for the new Government to address will be aged care.
In their National Press Club debate on 13 July 2016, Ian Yates (Chief Executive of the Council on the Ageing), Lee Thomas (Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation) and Paul Sadler (President of Aged and Community Services Australia) discussed the challenges for the aged care sector arising from the cuts of more than $1.2 billion announced in the 2016 Budget in addition to further recent cuts of more than $400 million. The cuts announced in the Budget were to the Aged Care Funding Instrument, and are due to come into effect on 1 January 2017. They will effectively reduce the funding per resident by more than $6,600 per annum on average.
While these changes do not affect people already in the residential aged care system initially, if a resident of an aged care home is hospitalised and returned to residential care, the changes will come into effect for them from the time they return to the facility.
With 75% of the costs of delivering aged care being the costs of labour, there is very little scope to make savings outside labour to reduce the impact of these costs on residents. The speakers were concerned that the result would be a reduction in the standards of care available to residents and increased out of pocket costs to other residents who were able to afford to pay more for their care. This will leave those whose only income is through welfare payments with poorer access to care.
Potentially offsetting some of these reductions, at least in part, was the Budget announcement of an increase in funding for the residential care viability supplement, which makes use of geographical classification to support residential care facilities in rural and remote locations.
All Speakers sought release of the modelling that the cuts have been based on to promote greater transparency and also enable testing of the assumptions that underpin the proposed cuts and enable accurate estimates of the impact of the combination of the reductions and the changes in the viability supplement.
In rural and remote communities there is concern that the cuts may make the delivery of sustainable residential aged care services more difficult, leading to even further reductions in access to aged care.
The panel discussion can be viewed in full (until 27 July, 2016) at http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/national-press-club-address .