A government committee is considering putting a cap on home care package administration fees amid claims some providers are charging up to 45 per cent on top of service fees.
Greens senator Rachael Siewert asked the senate estimates committee sitting on October 24 if home care administration fees were being monitored, saying she had an invoice showing administration fees of 38 per cent, and had heard of figures as high as 45 per cent being charged.
The health department’s Fiona Buffinton acknowledged high administration fees were “a problem” for home care providers and said a government committee was looking a at possible cap as part of a wider discussion of how to resolve the issue.
“One of the discussions for the group, including with consumers, has been on the nature of administration fees – do you make them transparent and let the market engage with that … or do you cap – that’s part of the discussion that has been taking place within that group,” Ms Buffinton said.
The government was also in discussions with the sector to ensure greater transparency in relation to fees, as well as improving information on the My Aged Care portal.
All providers will be required to publish current pricing information on My Aged Care by the end of November and information comparing prices will become available on the website from next April, she said.
She said consumer groups were “open to the fact that you might not have capping” because they wanted to be able to compare different services.
Additional home care packages funded by 26,000 residential places
Meanwhile, the committee also heard that that extra home care packages promised in the federal budget would come at the cost of some 26,000 residential places.
Labor’s Senator Helen Polley asked if the 14,000 home care packages were “entirely” funded by a reduction of 26,000 projected residential care places over the next four years.
Senior bureaucrat Dr Margot McCarthy confirmed that “the appropriations were combined in order for them to be used more flexibly” but added the projected residential places may never have come on line and “it was funding that would not otherwise have been used”.
The government announced in the budget that it would combine the residential and home care programs from 1 July to allow for greater flexibility in the allocation of aged care funding.
Dr MCarthy confirmed, as reported by Community Care Review in June, that 8,700 of the additional 14,000 high level home care packages promised in the federal budget would roll out this financial year.
An additional 5,500 will become available in 2019-20 with the remainder to join the national pool over the following two years, ageing deputy secretary Dr McCarthy said.
The department was unable to say exactly how many of the 14,000 had been rolled out since July but Ms Buffinton said about 2,300 packages of all level types had been offered each week over “recent weeks”.
The federal government allocated $1.6 billion over four years for the budget measure, to be funded by reallocating unused residential care funding to home care.
The extra high-level packages in the budget followed the government’s decision the previous September to convert 17,825 Level 1 and 2 packages into 6,000 high care packages.
The latest government data shows more than 95,000 people are waiting for a Level 3 or 4 package.