Wednesday, 9 December 2020
Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Improved Home Care Payment Administration No. 2) Bill 2020; Second Reading
Before I speak directly to the amendments in this bill, the Aged Care Legislation Amendment (Improved Home Care Payment Administration No. 2) Bill 2020, I'll first frame some of the context. The Morrison government is steadfastly committed to valuing and supporting ageing Australians, and that is why we're continuously improving our aged-care system. Demonstrating this commitment, we are delivering record investment across the aged-care system. This has grown from $13.3 billion in 2012-13 under Labor to $23.9 billion in 2021 under the Morrison government. It's estimated that funding for aged care will grow to more than $27 billion by 2023-24.
Senior Australians are increasingly choosing to remain in their own homes for longer, and the government is committed to supporting this choice. Since the 2018-19 budget, the government has invested $4.6 billion for an additional 73,105 home-care packages. Home-care packages are estimated to increase from 60,308 in 2012-13, when we came to government, to 185,597, to be precise, in 2020-21. Under this government there was an increase of 38 per cent in a single year in the number of people receiving a home-care package between 31 March 2019 and 31 March 2020.
The government is introducing this bill to improve the way home-care subsidies are paid to providers for care recipients. These changes respond to stakeholder concerns about the rising level of unspent home-care funds, and they also align payment arrangements with other key government programs such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme, NDIS. This bill is the second of two bills changing payment arrangements for approved home-care providers. The first bill changes the payment of home-care subsidy from being paid in advance to being in arrears.
This bill amends the Aged Care Act 1997 and the Aged Care (Transitional Provisions) Act 1997 such that approved home-care providers will only be paid subsidy for care and services rendered to a home-care recipient during a month, with Services Australia retaining the Commonwealth portion of unspent funds for which a home-care recipient is eligible to receive. Services Australia will hold the unspent subsidy until such time as it is drawn down by providers on behalf of the home-care recipient. These changes have been consulted upon with home-care providers and peak bodies by the Department of Health and the Aged Care Financing Authority, ACFA. In 2019, ACFA completed a project assessing the financial impacts of these changes on home-care providers. The government is also making a minor and technical parliamentary amendment to this bill to correct a drafting error in the calculation of the amount of subsidy payable.
By introducing this bill now we will enable the sector sufficient time to make any necessary changes to their payment systems. ACFA's assessment is that the vast majority of providers would be able to accommodate the cash flow impact of the change in payment arrangements due to either unspent funds on hand or access to capital. Financial support for some providers will be available during the transition, taking into account any subsequent impact of COVID-19. Home-care providers are also able to apply the government's free business advisory service for advice on managing their finances.
Let us now reflect on Labor's approach to aged care. Labor is missing in action when it comes to supporting the aged-care sector and the needs of vulnerable and senior Australians. It went to the last election promising $387 billion in new taxes, and not a single additional dollar for home care, aged-care quality or workforce, or mainstream residential care. The opposition leader's budget response offered no commitment to fund home-care, no support for staff and nothing for quality and safety. The opposition leader didn't even mention home care in his recent budget reply speech.
By comparison, the Morrison government's 2020-21 budget includes 23,000 additional home-care packages, at a cost of $1.6 billion, in addition to the 6,105 packages announced in July, at a cost of $325 million; more than $746 million in aged care COVID-19 response measures as part of $1.6 billion in COVID-19 specific support in aged care; and $408½ million for aged-care reform initiatives to improve the quality of care, further respond to the urgent issues raised by the royal commission into aged-care quality and safety and lay the foundations for future reform. Labor's only strength has been its ability to deliver spin, whilst the Morrison government continues to make the quality care of senior Australians an absolute priority.