20 Apr 2012
Martin Laverty, CEO of Catholic Health Australia (CHA) has welcomed the reforms which were announced in Canberra this morning by Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Minister for Mental Health and Ageing, Mark Butler. But he believes Government has not gone as far as CHA and many in the aged care sector would have liked.
"Not everything the Productivity Commission proposed in its report, Caring for Older Australians, has been endorsed," he said and admitted there was disappointment among those in the sector that aged care is not yet an entitlement for those who are assessed as in need.
Currently, only 113 people per thousand over 70 are able to access care but with the government reforms, this number will increase to 125 per thousand.
"Under the current rationing of aged care, of the 24,000 applications for community aged care services last year, only 1800 were approved," Mr Laverty says, and although this figure will improve thanks to plans outlined by the PM today, he warns many Australians will still miss out.
For many years lack of government action and outmoded laws has meant providers of high care beds for the elderly have operated at a loss of $62 per bed each day with the result fewer and fewer new aged care homes have been built.
CHA is nation's largest network of non-government aged care services, accounting for more than 10 percent of all residential and aged care community services and welcomes today's pledge by the PM to deliver an average of $115 million in new funding to the aged sector each year.
But while welcoming many of the reforms, Mr Laverty insists any real success and improvement in quality aged care depends very much on the government, and its willingness and determination to deliver these reforms.
One of the proposals put forward by the Productivity Commission was not only that those who could afford to, contribute to their own care, but that these people be means tested with their homes included as part of the assessment.
While Julia Gillard insisted the family home would not be assessed, the government's reforms will mean self-funded retirees will be asked to pay a greater slice of their care. These costs however will be capped at $25,000 per year and at no more than $60,000 over a lifetime for those in residential care or nursing homes. For those accessing home care, the cost will be capped at $5000 per year for pensioners and $10,000 per year for those on incomes of more than $43,000. This type of care will also be capped at $60,000 during a lifetime.
But Mr Laverty hopes suggested debate over Australians being asked to contribute to the costs of their care and accommodation will not eclipse the improvements and positive path for structural change outlined today by the Government.
"Any debate on means testing must not overshadow today's announcements which will bring improved palliative care, better support to low income earners, support for disadvantaged groups as well as addressing the special needs of those with Alzheimers and dementia, and their carers," he said. SOURCE: http://www.sydneycatholic.org/news/latest_news/2012/2012420_242.shtml