- The new home care package program has been postponed (again) until July, 2025
- The daily rate for aged care residents will rise by 17 percent, per resident, per day
- General practitioners (GPs) will be incentivised to offer bulk billing to those on a Pension or have a concession card
Last night, the Federal Government Budget was delivered by Treasurer Jim Chalmers and several announcements will be of particular interest to older people living in Australia.
This Aged Care Guide to the 2023 – 2024 Australian Budget will offer older Aussies the wins, losses and interesting details which will shape the future of aged care, support and the national economy.
How older people will benefit from the Budget
- Energy relief of up to $500 dollars, per year
- Cheaper medicines, more GPs bulk billing pensioners and healthcare card holders without a co-payment
- An increase of $15 dollars a week in rent assistance
- $20 dollars more in JobSeeker payments, per week
- An additional $40 dollars more a week in JobSeeker if you’re 55 years old or older when looking for a job for more than 9 months
A total of $11.3 billion dollars has been dedicated to the aged care industry, mainly to fund the 15 percent pay rise for aged care workers, to roll out a new regulatory model and to introduce new aged care assessments.
Perhaps the biggest change and greatest win for older Australians announced in the Federal Budget was the JobSeeker rate raised by $40 dollars a week for those over 55 years of age, if they have received the payment for over nine months. Previously, only people over 60 years old were able to receive the higher rate to combat ageism in employment.
Council on the Ageing (COTA) Australia’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Patricia Sparrow says that the changes were a welcome relief for older women, in particular.
“We know that older women are disproportionately impacted by unemployment and are unfortunately the fastest growing group at risk of homelessness, so budget measures that address those issues are not just welcomed, they’re crucial,” says Ms Sparrow.
“55 percent of older JobSeekers and those receiving Rent Assistance are women. They’re six percent less likely to have a superannuation account and if they do, their balances are about a quarter lower than men’s.”
The Budget also outlines that the daily rate for aged care residents will rise by 17 percent, per resident, through the Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) to ensure older people are receiving the best care they can while living in a facility.
Aged care residents will be visited for more health assessments and care planning as GPs and primary care clinics will be paid to do so, through the $112 million of Government funding.
This incentive triples for GPs in rural and remote areas in order to maintain access to health services for older people in these communities.
A new single assessment system was also announced in the Budget to simplify and improve access to in-home and residential aged care services. Facilities will have to stick to strict new rules under this Budget with almost $60 million being put into the aged care Star Rating system and almost $140 million into the Quality Indicator program.
A dedicated Food, Nutrition and Dining Advisory Support Unit will also be funded in this Budget to improve the quality of food and nutrition in aged care, including a food complaints hotline staffed by dietitians.
The Government has set aside $3.5 billion dollars for GPs to restore bulk billing for pensioners and Commonwealth concession card holders to help ease cost-of-living pressures and help older people seek treatment for chronic and complex health conditions.
When visiting the GP, older people can be prescribed two months’ worth of some Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) listed medications so they don’t need to attend the GP and chemist as often and pay more. Both GPs and Nurse Practitioners will be able to prescribe the approved PBS medications to older people, making prescriptions more accessible.
Older people in rural and regional areas who are registered with their healthcare provider through MyMedicare will be able to receive longer Medicare-rebated telehealth. This includes consultations longer than 20 minutes for GPs and longer than 25 minutes for Other Medical Practitioners (OMP).
The Budget also detailed that older patients with complex, chronic disease who go to hospital 10 or more times each year will be supported by extensive team-based and tailored care they need without needing to go to a hospital under MyMedicare. Those with chronic wounds and diabetes will also have access to more affordable wound care.
The Disability Support for Older Australians program will be extended and made ongoing with $487 million in funding over four years. Older people with disabilities will benefit from disability services which they can receive at home and in their communities.
Finally, $2.5 million is being invested into the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA), to establish the Australian Multicultural Health Collaborative. This will help to advocate for older Australians of different cultures and languages in healthcare.
How older people won’t benefit from the Budget
- Support at Home aged care program pushed back further, until July 1, 2025
- A lack of oral and dental care access
- Concerns that not enough is being done for sustainable housing
- Strict(er) smoking taxes
The new Support at Home home care program has been pushed back to be rolled out July 1, 2025, in order for the Government to further refine its design.
In order to make up for the delay, an additional 9500 Home Care Packages (HCPs) will be added to adhere to older people’s preference to stay supported living at home.
Australian Dental Association (ADA) CEO Damian Mitsch says that the lack of support for older people seeking oral care is a missed opportunity during the Budget announcements and that the only good thing to come out of it was further restrictions of smoking and vaping.
The majority of smokers in Australia are aged 55 – 64 and a $3.3 billion dollar tax increase on cigarette sales will be dedicated to stopping imported nicotine vaping products, which have been commonly used to quit the habit.
“The government needs to follow through with training of those existing and new aged care workers to ensure they are skilled in oral care maintenance, spotting problems and calling in the dentist or taking residents to the dentist, as well as other changes we pushed for in the ADA’s Aged Care Royal Commission submission,” says Mr Mitsch.