Older Australians have some good news in today’s Budget but there’s very little real relief in the lead up to the Federal election, COTA Australia said today.
COTA acknowledges that the More Choices for a Longer Life package last year was a major commitment for older Australians and many of those measures are still being implemented this year, next year and beyond. However the momentum of More Choices has not been maintained with new initiatives in this Budget.
“We need a more integrated, robust and better resourced strategy to ensure government remains focused on the opportunities of Australia’s ageing population,” COTA CEO Ian Yates said.
“Yesterday’s report from the Parliamentary Budget Office’s signals greater action is needed today on policy initiatives for older Australians to mitigate the $36 billion cost to the Budget balance as a result of an ageing population and create positive opportunities.
“There are some good measures in this Budget but there are gaping holes – major initiatives missing in action – including
- no extra Home Care Packages to reduce the nearly two year waiting list;
- no increase in Newstart;
- no oral and dental health program for older people; and
- no proactive Retirement Incomes Review to future-proof our retirement income system.”
The good news
- The government’s announcement it will remove the work test for superannuation payments for Australians aged 65 and 66, recommended by COTA last year, is good news for those who can afford to make voluntary superannuation contributions, and will create a more flexible approach to retirement into the future.
- A comprehensive retirement incomes policy.
“While we welcome the removal of the work test, this is another piecemeal measure among many inconsistencies, gaps and clunky components of the retirement income space and yet again demonstrates the need for a Comprehensive Retirement Incomes Review,” Mr Yates said.
“A Retirement Incomes Review would ensure government created equitable and fair policies across taxation, superannuation and the age pension and establish greater certainty for older Australians and people nearing retirement,” Mr Yates said.
The good news
- $1.1 billion investment into Primary Health Care, in particular maintaining the current incentive for GPs to treat older Australians in residential aged care.
- The re-introduction of indexation of GP Medicare payments and renewed focus on heart health in the form of Medicare funded heart checks.
- $5 million investment in educating all Australians about the new private health insurance categories of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Basic.
“The Gold, Silver Bronze and Basic categories which commence this month will ensure that older Australians can compare their private health insurance more easily, choose the level of insurance that is most appropriate for them, and be confident that what they have chosen will be what is provided” Mr Yates said.
- A comprehensive dental and oral health care scheme for pensioners and people living in residential aged care.
- GP ordered MRI knee scans for Australians over 50.
“We’re deeply disappointed to still see the Australian Government actively discriminating on the basis of age in the provision of health care. While we support the $1 billion investment for children’s dental health, oral and dental health issues for pensioners and people living in residential care warrants priority attention,” Mr Yates said.
“There’s also absolutely no good reason why a 49-year-old can receive a knee MRI from their GP but once they turn 50 they’ll need to pay an expensive specialist to do the same thing.”
The good news
- $725 million of announcements in last Budget have been reaffirmed in this Budget, including 34,000 home care packages over the past 12 months (14,000 last Budget, 10,000 MYEFO 2018/19 and 10,000 February 2019).
- $185 million investment in the Ageing, and Aged Care, and Dementia Mission of the Health and Medical Research Future Fund.
- $7.1 million to address concerns about better use of unspent funds and align home care payment administration arrangements with other government programs.
- $5.6 million investment on top of $7.7 million already announced funds to improve the compliance framework for the quality and safety of home care services.
- $2.6 million towards the implementation of the Aged Care Workforce Strategy.
- $1.5 million for serious incident response scheme requiring residential care providers to report a broader range of incidents occurring in the facility.
- $84.3 million to expand the Integrated Carer Support Service.
“A $185 million investment into research into ageing and dementia will hopefully contribute towards improvements and discoveries that will this dreadful disease that is predicted to affect almost one million Australians by 2050,” Mr Yates said
- Despite a $5.9 billion extension of the Commonwealth Home Support Program until 2021/22, the Government has continued to fail older Australians and aged care providers seeking future policy certainty on the foreshadowed single Care at Home Program.
- The government has failed to invest any new funds into the Home Care Package waitlist since its department identified a $2.5 billion funding gap that is causing older Australian to wait more than 18 months for the care the government assesses them as needing.
“The counsel assisting the Royal Commission described the home care waitlist as ‘cruel, unfair, disrespectful and discriminatory against older Australians’ and we’d agree,” Mr Yates said.
“The government’s own department has told the Royal Commission it will only cost $2.0 billion to $2.5 billion a year to ensure older Australians wait no more than 3 months for the assessed level of care they need. The lack of investment in this Budget sends a troubling signal to the 125,000 older Australians still waiting for home care across the country.”
The above provides commentary on the key measures in the 2019/20 Budget. However there are many measures not mentioned here that are outlined in COTA’s 2019/20 Pre Budget Submission at which were not implemented. See the submission at www.cota.org.au.
See also our separate media statement on the lack of action on Newstart allowance leaving over 350,000 mature age Australians well below the poverty line as they approach retirement.
Bronte Kerr 0411 676 269 / Ian Yates 0418 835 439