Better Caring in the AFR: Changes to Home Care Funding and Services

Home Care

Peter Scutt recently spoke to Bina Brown from the Australian Financial Review about the major changes to Home Care Funding and services that will take effect from the 27th of February. While highlighting the opportunities that reforms will provide for consumers to access greater choice about choosing a home care provider, the article also warns of the need for careful monitoring to consumers are not subject to potential “rorts” under the scheme.

Changes to Home Care Funding that you need to know:

  • From 27 February, funding for a Home Care Package will be allocated to the consumer rather than the individual’s approved provider.
  • After this date, consumers without an existing Home Care Package will be assigned with one through a government web portal (myagedcare.com.au) based on the individual needs and circumstances.
  • From 27 February, those with existing Home Care Packages will have the freedom to ‘port’ or move their package to a provider of their choice – meaning, they can shop around for the best deal.

As Brown notes:

“Under the consumer-directed care model, individuals are free to select relevant and innovative-care related products or services which a provider will help facilitate.”

While these steps are positive, Brown also flags potential pain points of the new scheme which consumers should be aware of as they navigate the changes.

“Allocating the funding to an individual means that someone not happy with their existing provider or the services on offer should be able to change providers easily, although concerns have been raised at the high barriers to change including the time it may take to transfer unspent home care amounts.” 

Vulnerability of consumers

Brown flags as a major concern the vulnerability of aged care consumers, particularly when it comes to access to information. In the article she spoke with consumer advocate and home care consultant Annette Whitmee, who welcomes the competition and the option to switch providers easily, but questions whether the providers themselves are best placed to inform and educate consumers about the reforms.

“People receiving the packages are at a vulnerable time of their lives and are unlikely to complain about services for fear of losing their funding. They are also being asked to make choices about things they may not understand,” she says.

To address this, Whitmee believes the government should be doing more to educate consumers about the reforms and make it mandatory for providers to be more open and transparent about their fees.

Higher fees charged by providers

Brown notes another area of concern as the administration or case management fees charged by providers.

“An ongoing area of concern is the case administration or case management fee charged by providers out of the care budget which is known to have reached 45 per cent. Another concern is that if customers do want to change providers and they have unspent funds in their budget, a provider has 10 weeks to transfer the funds, making a seamless transfer of care unlikely.”

How to be prepared

Brown advises consumers to ask their provider questions about how their budget is being allocated, the cost of services provided and the administration and exit fees.

She spoke with Better Caring founder and co-CEO Peter Scutt, who highlighted the critical importance of independent case management and advice to help consumers achieve the best outcomes:

“Just like financial services, you don’t want your advice from someone who has a product to sell you. A number of approved home care providers position themselves as independent advisors, as they host packages and provide case management, but they do not deliver services themselves. They’ll help the consumer develop a plan and then support them with open access to and choice for service delivery.

Original article appeared in the Australian Finacial Review on 21 January 2017.

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