Are you willing to pay more for aged care?

Article published 5 June 2023

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Are you willing to pay more for aged care?

When aged care providers talk about sustainability, they mean money. When they're talking about all-options-on-the-table, they mean your money.

IT was advertised and promoted by the aged care industry as the Financial Sustainability Summit and held, as one news outlet described it, “in the nation’s capital”.

That’s Canberra, in case you were wondering.

To make it appear even more important, the venue for the Financial Sustainability Summit was Old Parliament House.

But looking through all the hype, it was the old aged care industry band getting together again, thumping out the tune we all know so well. More money!

The industry, if you believe it, has been going broke for the last thirty years. It’s been at breaking point for all of that time. During all that time, it’s just not been worth their while to hang on any longer.

But hung on they have, and here they were “in the nation’s capital”, in Old Parliament House and asking for … more money. More money for nursing home care, more money for home care, more money for all types of aged care.

It’s a miracle they could afford the venue hire, because Old Parliament House doesn’t come cheap. The Queanbeyan RSL would have made a whole lot more sense as a Summit venue for an aged care industry down on its uppers.

The Summit more or less coincides with the commissioning of an Aged Care Taskforce by the Government to examine sustainability of the system, including the funding of care. The Government has also released for consultation a draft National Care Economy Strategy, which specifically floats the idea of greater individual contributions to a range of services including aged care and childcare.

And this is what the aged care industry has locked its jaws onto: greater individual contributions.

There is nothing wrong with an aged care industry necessarily dependent on Government subsidies and pricing regulation to lobby and clamour for more money. It’s also fine if such an industry seizes on care recipients paying more. The industry has obviously made an assessment that government coffers are unlikely to foot the rising bill for aged care. That bill is rising dramatically now that the baby boomer generation is starting to call upon aged care.

So, it’s fine for the chief executive of peak provider advocacy group Aged & Community Care Providers Association, to tell The Australian: “With national debt set to skyrocket and the future burden of aged care about to spiral, taxpayer funds must be focused on protecting those who can’t afford to pay for their own aged care.

“It doesn’t make sense that people with a modest home pay the same for aged care as someone with a $10m mansion by the beach.

“Two-thirds of funding is provided by taxpayers, rather than individuals, placing an increasing burden on the federal budget, particularly with the baby boomer generation beginning to require aged-care services in larger numbers over the next few years.

“Already 70 per cent of nursing home providers are losing money on each and every resident, which is simply unsustainable. In ten years’ time demand will double, so we need to act now.”

But what is not fine, or even remotely acceptable, is for certain consumer/community organisations to say that older people are willing to pay more for their care.

It’s perfectly clear that these calls from consumer/community advocates are the resurrection of a campaign to make older people needing care to reverse mortgage their home.

Back in 2012, at the time of the Living Longer, Living Better reforms, the then Government specifically rejected a Productivity Commission recommendation to force home care recipients to reverse mortgage their family home to enable them to make greater contributions towards the cost of their care.

Would the Government have done that if older people had been telling them that they thought paying more for their care was a wonderful idea?

And why would older people now tell the Government any different?

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