Good news for anyone receiving a home care package or considering the option in the future!
Yesterday the Australian Senate approved amendments to aged care legislation giving the green light to home care changes that give older people much more choice and control over their aged care services.
The changes will come in in two stages, the first of which commences in February next year.
What will it mean?
From that time, if you need assistance at home and you are assessed by an Aged Care Assessment team (ACAT), as eligible for a government funded home care package, that funding will be allocated to you as an individual, to direct to the service provider of your choice.
In effect, it means you can take your funding package and ‘go shopping’ for a service provider of your choice. You can compare service offerings, people, prices, and customer service approaches. Then you can choose which service provider you want to contract to provide your choice of services to you, using your funding allocation.
If you find you’re not happy with that service provider or you need to move to a new location or new state, you can take your funding allocation with you and give it to a new service provider.
A big change
The new arrangements will mark a substantial change for aged care service providers and consumers alike.
Aged care service providers currently have to apply to the Government for home care packages as part of an allocation process and are granted a certain number of packages, if they are successful. Consumers (that’s anyone accessing the care services) who have been assessed by an ACAT as eligible for support in their home, have to then find a provider in their area who has a package available.
And as COTA Australia Chief Executive, Ian Yates, said in a statement this morning, people currently have to just “hope the provider is responsive to their needs.”
Under the changes to the home care laws, from February 2017, Mr Yates said older people will be allowed “to choose their services and who provides them, rather than having services determined for them.”
Naturally, these changes will have a significant impact on the aged care ‘market’ which has previously been fairly tightly controlled by the Government in terms of both supply and demand.
In the new arrangements, demand will be determined by eligibility (if you are eligible, you can receive funding to get the services you need) and supply will be determined much more by ordinary competitive market forces.
Commenting on this, Mr Yates said a more competitive aged care environment would put the onus on aged care providers to prove their worth and improve the quality of care and services they provide. Providers that offer quality services will be able to attract new customers and expand.
“Many aged care providers have a long way to go in learning how to be partners with consumers in providing support and care services based on consumer preferences and well-being,” Mr Yates said.
“These changes will allow older people to leave poor providers; and providers that don’t improve their game will go out of business.”
The second stage of changes as a result of the legislation being passed will see the two different home support programs currently in place – the Home Care Packages Program and the Commonwealth Home Support Program – integrated into a single care at home program.
The Government intends to introduce the new integrated program from July 2018. Separate legislation will be required for this stage.