Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Health and Aged Care. Minister, I have received many complaints from older Australians and their families about the ridiculous cost of home care packages. One example is a client who was effectively being charged $165.00 an hour for assistance with house cleaning and showering when all of the administrative expenses were included. The problem is that there is a cap on fees but no floor on services. This allows overcharging by many service providers on a scale that a reasonable person would characterise as systemic rorting. This is obviously unacceptable both for the consumers who cannot afford the fees and for the taxpayers who are subsidising the packages. What will you do about it?
I thank the member for Denison for his question and for introducing a very important topic to the House today which is the care of our older Australians in their own homes. It is, I agree, very disappointing to hear about providers who charge such extravagant administration fees and effectively bring a bad name and reputation to so many who do the right thing. It is true that, at the moment, providers of home care packages can charge an administration fee, and we expect them to charge a reasonable fee. I would like to receive detailed information about these circumstances.
I would like to make another few important points to the members and to the Labor Party because the care of our older Australians is largely a bipartisan effort. The Living Longer Living Better package that we are implementing was actually supported by Labor, and this is our agenda as a parliament. What I would like to emphasise is two things: I would like to hear about the case and I would like the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner to hear about the case; and I would encourage the person receiving the care to contact the advocacy network in Tasmania—we can provide the details—if they feel reluctant to make that case themselves. Importantly, from February next year, as part of the reforms being led by this government, we will attach care packages to the consumer, so this situation will not therefore happen. We will give the consumer the power of spending on their own care on their own package in their own home. This will allow them to live exactly the life that they choose, not being dictated to by providers with excessive administration fees but actually recognising that choice in aged care is vital.
I visited Tasmania last week and I was interested to hear about the needs of your community, member for Denison, and I am interested for your continuing contact with my office, particularly with examples such as this. I do encourage you and your constituents to check out the agenda on aged care, which, as I said, under this government is bringing the control and the spend back to the consumer, where it needs to be.