Federal election 2016: $1.5bn savings plan faces block

June 16, 2016

More than $1.5 billion of aged-care savings banked by both the ­Coalition and Labor are likely to be stalled in the Senate because the Greens and Nick Xenophon’s party oppose the measures while they remain independent of ­“serious reform”.

The federal government has banked about $1.6bn in savings from a measure that provides funding for residential aged-care costs — the aged care funding instrument — in last year’s mid-year update and this year’s budget, saying the cut was simply a clawback from “overclaiming” in the sector.

Labor, which labelled the cuts “savage”, is banking them too, but promises only to review the ACFI if it wins government.

Greens senator Rachel Siewert told The Australian the savings measures were “ad hoc” without a proper study into the actual cost of providing care in the sector.

“I have spoken to many providers in the sector and neither they nor the Greens are opposed to proper reform but this is a grab for money without serious reform,” she said.

The Coalition wants to crack down on providers incorrectly categorising residents as needing “complex healthcare” — which includes pain management and monitoring of blood pressure — because in some states claims for higher needs have been downgraded by as much as 22 per cent after auditing.

Senator Siewert said the federal government was being “cheeky” because the figures for overblown claims were only from those residential homes that were already at risk and had been audited.

“We are not saying by any means that the Greens will not support sensible reform and if sensible measures are presented to us, we will consider them, but we need to know the full cost of care.

“The reality is people are entering residential care later and with more complicated care needs and that is only going to increase as the population ages.”

Senator Xenophon said he had “real concerns” about the funding cuts and they should be “paused”.

“If there has been any rorting of the current complex healthcare payments, then that needs to be dealt with rather than penalising all providers,” he said.

“There is a real risk that there will simply be cost-shifting between the commonwealth to the states as more aged-care facilities will be unable to treat complex healthcare patients because payments have been slashed and they will be pushed on to the state health system.”

With the Greens and at least Senator Xenophon likely to hold the balance of power in the next Senate, their opposition will blow another hole in both the government and Labor’s funding plans.


Read more at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/federal-election-2016/federal-election-2016-15bn-savings-plan-faces-block/news-story/571655665f615776458feb2d961f9526

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