Major reforms to home care funding, which will see the move to a payment in arrears and invoicing system, will be implemented from next year.
Under the reforms, providers will be paid after services have been delivered, rather than being given a lump sum in advance, which has been blamed as a factor in the accumulation of more than $1.1 billion in unspent funds.
Community Care Review understands that in an email to providers on Wednesday the health department said the first phase of the new new system will be implemented from February 1, with the second phase, where providers will need to invoice for services provided, to kick in from September.
The announcement caught some commentators by surprise, after budget papers released on Tuesday said $21 million would be provided over four years to delay the implementation of payment in arrears and on invoice for home care, to provide transition support to providers.
Community Care Review has sought clarification from the department.
More than 900 home care providers were set to receive their final payment in advance last May.
But aged care minister Richard Colbeck announced in March that the plans, which were originally announced in the 2019 budget, had been put on hold while the government responded to COVID-19.
The government flagged the changes in last year’s budget saying the new model would align home care with other government funded programs where providers are only paid for services once they have been delivered, like the NDIS.
Aged care economists say the change is welcome and believe the measure will help put a lid on unspent funds.
“This should have a direct consequence on the growing level of unspent funds which, in effect, is unutilised funding that could be allocated for further additional packages,” consultants StewartBrown said in an analysis of this week’s federal budget.
However the analysis says while the budget commitment to provide 23,000 new home care packages over the next four years is welcome, it won’t address the problem of unspent funds, which currently average $8,000 per client.
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