Living longer, paying more: aged care at home

The Australian Department of Health is reviewing the progress of the aged care reforms, with a focus on the roll-out of consumer directed home care.

Since February 2017 funding for home care packages has followed the client, rather than being allocated directly to one home care provider. This was supposed to encourage clients to switch providers if they are unhappy with the care and services they are receiving, but the introduction of exit fees have deterred many from switching.

As part of the review, the Department is considering how to improve access to home care packages, how to better support clients and how to ensure care is delivered in a client-centred fashion. Yet the review will not consider "client contributions" – fees – because they reckon this has already been considered as part of the Aged Care Legislated Review.

When it comes to care at home, fees are the single biggest issue that CPSA receives calls about. How can you talk about access and support for clients without considering the financials? If you can't afford the fees, you're in a spot of bother.

But it's not just that, home care fees are largely unregulated, which means providers can essentially charge whatever they like. There are no limits to the administration and coordination fees home care providers can charge. The higher these administration and coordination fees are, the less clients have left over to spend on the care and services they actually need.

CPSA spoke with one person who was being charged almost 50% of their package in admin, advice and support fees. This included over $3,000 in charges for "ongoing advice and support" and more than $2,000 for "service support". While of course it is reasonable to expect some charges for administration and coordination, it is hard to see how more than $5,000 – over a 10 month period no less – could be justified.

Excessive admin and coordination fees mean that clients do not have enough left in their package to purchase the care and services they need. If these clients cannot get the support that they need to keep living at home, they often have no choice but to move into a nursing home.

By far the vast majority of older Australians want to live at home and it is much cheaper for the Government to provide care at home than it is to provide care in a nursing home. The Australian Government must put an end to the excessive administration and coordination fees being charged by home care providers so that clients can actually receive the care and support they need.

These excessive fees threaten to undermine the very idea of the aged care reforms, which was to give people choices about how and where they receive the care and support they need. A nursing home is the only choice when you can't get the care and support you need to live at home.

You can call on the Minister for Aged Care to regulate home care fees by contacting his parliamentary office on (02) 6277 7720 or by writing to him:
The Hon. Ken Wyatt AM, MP
Minister for Aged Care
PO Box 6022,
House of Representatives,
Parliament House,
Canberra ACT 2600