More than two weeks after the launch of new data fields on My Aged Care most home care providers are yet to make their cost information available to consumers.
Since changes introduced on 27 February the government’s My Aged Care website now enables home care providers to disclose the average percentage of home care package funds available for service, average evening and weekend surcharges and pricing schedule information.
While these fields are not mandatory to complete, the government’s intention was to increase transparency for consumers and assist them to make informed decisions in a competitive market.
But an analysis by Community Care Review shows the vast majority of providers are not providing this information.
When asked if a delay in publishing the data was to blame, a response from a Department of Health spokesperson suggested these providers had chosen not to provide the non-mandatory information.
“Providers have been encouraged to populate all fields including having a link to the providers website,” the spokesperson said.
The department said the design of the service finder was based on consultation with both providers and consumers and “allows for flexibility to populate information based on the service model and structure of different businesses.”
Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney said his peak body was encouraging members to complete all service fields relevant to their business and offerings. He said some members had reported problems with populating the new data fields.
Mr Rooney said providers should not be required to complete all fields.
“Home care providers will determine how best to market themselves to potential clients and this is not something that should be mandated by the federal government,” he told CCR.
Aged and Community Services Australia CEO Pat Sparrow said providers need to have the ability to negotiate fees and charges with the consumer and to take into account an individual’s circumstances and service needs.
In addition to My Aged Care, many providers also detailed service and cost information for consumers on their own organisational websites, she said.
Why providers are choosing not to detail costs
Community Care Review approached a number of home care providers from across Australia to ask why their cost information was not appearing on My Aged Care.
Large Western Australian home care provider Silver Chain said it will provide relevant fee information on the My Aged Care website, but fees should reflect the circumstances of each client.
“We do however believe that the best way to help our clients is to understand their needs and tailor a package accordingly. The fees are an output of this and are unique to each client,” said executive general manager of social care at Silver Chain Melanie Kiely.
A spokesperson for large not-for-profit provider Uniting said making fee information available to consumers in isolation could be misleading and it wanted to have in-depth conversations with clients about its services.
“We are committed to providing information to customers in a way that’s accurate, accessible and comparable, and are in the process of deciding the best platform for this. It may be that our own website is the most appropriate forum,” the spokesperson said.
CCR is awaiting the responses from other providers.
Lack of information ‘concerning’
While it was early days in the life of the home care changes, Ian Yates, chief executive of Council on the Ageing Australia, said the scale of the current lack of information was concerning.
He said if providers don’t make their information available on My Aged Care, they created incentives for alternative sites to provide this comparative information.
From a sample of providers analysed by Community Care Review, the average percentage of packaged funds available for services ranged from 56 per cent to 100 per cent.
Related CCR coverage: Exit fees for home care clients top $4,000, data shows
This story is being updated as responses to CCR’s enquiries are received.