Home care providers will be subject to “assurance reviews” for the first time under new laws introduced in response to the aged care royal commission.
The reviews are designed to encourage “continuous improvement”, but legal experts say they give the government the power to demand information about almost all aspects of a provider’s business and could lead to increased compliance action and more sanctions against home care providers.
LASA has also raised concern about the breadth of the provision and says the reviews are unlikely to have any effect on home care pricing apart from adding to the administrative burden.
Up to 500 home care providers each year will face assurance reviews from November, aged care services minister Richard Colbeck says.
“The reviews will examine fees and charges applied by home care providers to ensure senior Australians are not facing unjustified costs,” Mr Colbeck said.
Broad powers to investigate
The new laws enable the department of health to conduct assurance reviews of approved providers to ensure the “effective and efficient” delivery of home care.
The review will be able to look at:
- how providers are using subsidies and calculating charges
- the nature and type of home care provided
- how providers are structuring their financial accounting for home care services
- the nature and type of providers’ dealings with clients.
Provider who don’t comply with requests for information can face penalties.
More compliance action likely
The reviews are something new for the home sector.
Home care providers have previously been subject to quality reviews, but unlike quality reviews, assurance reviews don’t assess a provider’s performance against the aged care quality standards but look at the delivery of home care as a whole, say Victor Harcourt and Solomon Miller, principals at Russell Kennedy Lawyers.
Mr Miller and Mr Harcourt were unavailable to speak to Community Care Review but in a publication on their website they warn the Bill will give the government the power to require information about almost every aspect of a home care provider’s business.
“Although there are no proposed sanctions directly related to assurance review, providers should be warned that we anticipate this will lead to more compliance action against approved providers and will likely prompt the Commisison to undertake other reviews which could result in sanctions,” they write.
Focus should be on quality
Mr Rooney says the government would be better off putting its energy into ensuring providers are offering high quality services.
“It is hard to believe that any government department is competent to review the effectiveness and efficiency of any business,” CEO Sean Rooney told Community Care Review.
“This calls into question why the Department of Health has been given powers to review the affairs of predominantly small businesses and community organisations that are akin to those held by the banking regulator to assure the stability of our entire financial system.
“Unless we get some measurement of quality alongside pricing all we will do is drive a race to the bottom, which ultimately impacts on what and how services are delivered, with the end result likely to be a reduction in access and choice for clients.”
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