Wealthy pay aged care bills – Labor’s pitch for the grey vote
THOUSANDS of wealthy older people will be asked to contribute to the cost of nursing home accommodation as part of a bold plan to expand aged care facilities.
And millions of extra dollars will be pumped into community stay-at-home care as part of a major pitch by the federal government for the “grey” vote.
In the biggest reforms to aged care for years, the government is preparing to announce a new era of user-pays, including bed-ridden patients classified as “high care”.
The government is determined to boost spending for aged care amid warnings of a serious shortfall in services as Australia’s population ages. The user pays scheme is also in line with other budget reforms to crackdown on so-called middle class welfare and to take the axe to services such as the Medicare safety net.
It will only require those with substantial assets to pay for their aged care accommodation – either through a bond or through regular payments.
Over time, this will affect potentially 100,000 people who are classified as “high care” living in nursing homes and aged care hostels.
The changes are in line with recommendations from the Productivity Commission and have received near universal support from aged care providers, consumers, unions and charity groups. Prime Minister Julia Gillard – who nominated aged care as one of her top reform priorities – has been forced to act after concerns from the aged care sector over major shortfalls in services.
Already governments spend about $10 billion a year on aged care but this is forecast to grow by 150 per cent by 2050 as the number of Australians aged 85 and over reaches 1.8 million.
The PC last August unveiled a blueprint for reform, including recommendations that people who can afford to pay for aged care should. In a stark warning, the Aged Care Industry Council warned the Treasurer Wayne Swan of serious “shortcomings” in the sector, which looks after a million people.
With the government determined to deliver a budget surplus, it is expected some of the aged care spending will be deferred until 2013 and beyond.
Spending on community care – which includes funding for nurses and other carers to visit homes – will also be boosted from the current 25,000 places.
A study conducted for the aged care sector showed aged care beds are funded at $62 per day less than it costs to operate them.