The 11th hour amendments to the ACFI changes due to take effect on 1 January are little more than a gesture and do not change the overall amount of funding being taken from providers, industry analysts have warned.
Minster Ken Wyatt announced yesterday revisions to the planned changes that will increase the viability supplement for eligible rural and remote services, alter the Complex Health Care Domain scoring matrix and impact certain complex health care procedures.
While the three aged care industry peak bodies were quick to welcome the amendments, LASA CEO, Sean Rooney conceded the overall result will be the same.
“The Government has not heard our message about the need for a sustainable funding model for the industry – it is still taking $1.2 billion out of the aged care industry, just changing the mechanism it uses to do this,” Mr Rooney said.
He said it is not enough for Government to just tinker at the edges of ACFI but rather a “complete overhaul of aged care funding is required.”
Australian Greens Senator, Rachel Siewert, said although the changes are a step in the right direction, an inquiry is needed into the funding cuts.
“The bottom line is that the cuts to the aged care funding are really complicated and need investigation,” she said.
“The Greens have repeatedly put forward a motion for the cuts to go to a senate inquiry and repeatedly both Labor and the Coalition have voted against it.”
“There is still $1.6 billion in cuts to the aged care sector on the table. This is not loose change and these cuts remain ad hoc,” she said.
In announcing the changes yesterday, the Assistant Minister for Ageing said the revised package will balance funding the nation’s growing aged care bill, while taking into account provider feedback.
“It is important to the integrity of the funding arrangements that certain changes to the Complex High Care domain go ahead to ensure funding appropriately reflects the care needs of residents, contemporary care practices and is clinically appropriate,” Minister Wyatt said.
One industry leader, who did not want to be named, said the announcement should not be celebrated as there are many services in regional and metropolitan areas that are struggling and will still be severely impacted by the 1 January changes.
“Overall, providers are still going to receive less funding for delivering the same amount of care. Meanwhile the increased viability supplement is still unlikely to be enough to make a real differece for providers in rural and remote areas. The entire funding model – not just ACFI – needs to change,” he said.
The specifics of the revisions include a 12 month full indexation pause and half indexation pause in 2018, while scoring for blood pressure measurement and for fitting certain garments, bandages and dressings will be reduced from 3 points to 1.
The score for complex pain management will remain at 3 points, and not be reduced to 2 points as previously announced, though a timing requirement will be added to complex pain management by allied health professionals requiring 80 minutes of delivery of treatment over a week.
While this is lower than the 120 minutes per week of treatment that was announced in the 2016–17 Budget, there is currently no timing requirement for this Item and health experts maintain there is no clinical evidence behind the requirement.
Speaking on behalf of the Australian Physiotherapy Association as Chair of the Gerontology Committee, Rik Dawson said that introducing timing requirements will benefit residents.
However, he said the Association is disappointed that ACFI wasn’t expanded to embrace evidence based practice for pain management such as exercise, and other restorative therapies and sees it a missed opportunity to bring ACFI in line with best practice.