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Aged care sector prepares for fight with Government

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Aged care providers are preparing to campaign against the Government, accusing it of stripping $3.1 billion from the sector over the past year alone.

The Government plans to save $1.2 billion by “refining” the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) so that fewer patients fall into the complex health care (CHC) category, following a blowout in claims.

Currently, almost 50 per cent of patients are classified in the highest CHC bracket, receiving $66.82 a day on top of the usual subsidies.

Treasurer Scott Morrison said the ACFI needed fine tuning so it did not “encourage distortions in claiming behaviour and care delivery”.

Health and Aged Care Minister Sussan Ley told The Australian that ongoing overclaiming by providers “demonstrates a clear need to restructure the way (funding) is assessed”.

While the move received support from the Council on the Ageing, it was condemned by the peak lobby group, Leading Aged Services Australia (LASA), which accused the Government of cutting $3.1 billion nationally over the past year.

Individual providers and Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA) also criticised the measure, with ACSA launching a federal election campaign called Old, Frail, and Invisible.

“There is significant and growing concern about the impact of the 2016-17 Budget cuts arising from changes around the ACFI, ACSA President Paul Sadler said.

“These will directly impact on older people in our residential care facilities that need specialised and complex care and support.

“These changes to ACFI have not been implemented in the spirit of consultation, and the modelling of the impacts we have seen so far has caused considerable distress in our sector as we seek to provide the appropriate service, care and support to our current and future residents.”

Ansell Strategic, a consultancy specialising in aged care organisations, released projections showing that the changes would result in cuts of $350 million more than announced.

“While the cuts compromise the viability of the sector, the threats to the vulnerable aged are even more concerning,” managing director Cam Ansell said.

“The ACFI changes create a disincentive to admit high dependency people and will ultimately result in their displacement to hospitals.”

In a separate fight, Victoria’s largest provider, Shepparton Villages, has reportedly launched a campaign against a Government decision to shift almost 150 beds from the Shepparton region to Melbourne.

LASA’s Victorian policy and government relations director, Jenny Matic, told The Australian that the Shepparton region had been stripped of beds despite having the third highest rate of dementia in Australia.

“Four hundred residential aged care beds were meant to allocated, but only about 250 were. That’s a 40 per cent loss,” she was quoted as saying.

“There doesn’t seem to be a level of transparency around these deferred allocations. You don’t know who got what and how many.”

Shepparton is in the federal seat of Murray, where the Liberal and National parties are each standing a candidate following the retirement of long-serving Liberal MP Sharman Stone.

Maria Hawthorne