MEDIA RELEASE: Greater transparency in aged care a win for older Australians

The difficult decisions older people and their families have to make when moving to residential aged care will be made easier with the introduction of greater transparency of accommodation charges, more choice over the method of payment, and the requirement for higher level charges to be specifically approved, said seniors advocate COTA Australia today.

COTA Australia Chief Executive Ian Yates said older people had been calling for changes to residential care payment arrangements for a long time.

“Most Australians don’t encounter the complexities of residential aged care until they are in a situation where their mum, dad or grandparent’s health declines and they can’t be cared for at home anymore,” Mr Yates said.

“This can be a traumatic time for both the older person and their family, which is made consistently worse when they enter the maze that is our current aged care system.

“Trying to find the right home at the right price is stressful and time consuming and currently families can end up paying more than they should.

“Today’s announcement from the Federal Government, as part of its implementation of the Living Longer Living Better reforms, will provide greater transparency on accommodation charges from July 2014 with a mandatory requirement for them to be publicly disclosed.

“For the first time people will be able to compare charges for different aged care facilities in their area and make informed choices about the right accommodation for them.

“Service providers will also need to set charges that better reflect the accommodation value they provide rather than the current system where consumers are often forced to negotiate a bond based on the value of their assets.

“This means no more deals behind closed doors where people can be charged vastly different amounts for the same accommodation, and older people will be able to raise concerns if they think they are being overcharged.”

Mr Yates said greater choice between periodic payments (like paying rent) or a lump sum or “bond” will mean a fairer system in which providers cannot pick and choose among residents based on payment method.

“Allowing people greater choice by introducing a mandatory period of 28 days in which they can make that decision will ensure people have enough time to consider their options and make the best choice for their circumstances.

“The requirement that the highest 15% of charges be approved by an independent agency will also result in greater accountability and ensure older people aren’t charged fees that can’t be justified.

“All these changes are integral to protecting older people’s rights when they are vulnerable, making sure they are charged fairly, and have enough information and time to make the right decisions.”

Mr Yates is also a member of the independent Aged Care Financing Authority which advises the Federal Government on issues relating to financing and pricing in aged care.

Media contact: Ian Yates 0418 835 439, Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774

COTA Australia is the peak policy development, advocacy and representation organisation for older Australians, representing COTAs in every State and Territory and through them over 500,000 older Australians.