Better care for older Australians at risk in hung Parliament

In the lead up to next Monday's release of a long awaited plan to improve Australia's aged care system, the Nation's largest network of not-for-profit hospital and aged care services has called on all members of the Federal Parliament to put older people's needs ahead of short term politics. The Catholic Health Australia network, made up of 22,000 aged care beds and care services delivered to thousands of people living in their own homes, said if aged care reform stalled in the hung Parliament, older Australians risked missing out on care in the years ahead.

"Government has been handed a plan prepared by the Productivity Commission that has widespread support among both older Australians and those who work in providing aged care services," Martin Laverty, the CEO of Catholic Health Australia said.

"When the plan is released, we have three major priorities: entitlement; choice; and sustainability. We first expect the plan to propose reform to end current rationing of aged care places, and instead offer access to care as an entitlement to all older Australians assessed as needing support.

"Second, we expect the plan to propose reform that will give older Australians choice in the types of services they can utilise, in contrast to today's rules that limit what can be offered.

"Third, we need reform that returns services to a sustainable footing. We don't seek to make profits from caring for older Australians, but we do need to operate viably. For too long, financial viability has been going backwards and new beds are not being built to meet demand.

"Aged care consumers want many of the changes the Productivity Commission has flagged, and aged care providers are also united on the urgency for change.

"With a once in a generation opportunity to fix the system problems, we now need all members of the Federal Parliament to put politics aside and commit to changing aged care laws and funding in order to set it up to be ready for the care needs of the Baby Boom generation," Mr Laverty said.

The final Productivity Commission report on aged care reform is to be made public on Monday 8 August. A preliminary report issued in January proposed an end to the rationing of aged care places and a new focus on caring for people in their own homes.

Mr Laverty said "When the report is released, there will be debate about who should pay: the taxpayer or the consumer. We argue both have obligations. People able to contribute to their care costs should, where the price is linked to what it reasonably costs to deliver a service".

"People who cannot afford to contribute to their care should be protected by a robust safety net. January's preliminary Commission report provided a safety net, and detailed measures to avoid the need for anyone to have to sell their family home," Mr Laverty said.

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