People will be able to compare charges for different aged care facilities in their area from July next year, to help encourage informed choices about the right accommodation for them.
COTA Australia, a national independent body which aims to protect and promote the wellbeing of older people, welcomed the announcement made in late December last year, which called to introduce greater transparency of accommodation charges, more choice over the method of payment and the requirement for higher level charges to be specifically approved.
COTA chief executive, Ian Yates, said older people had called for changes to residential care payment arrangements for some 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 added.
Describing the aged care system as a “maze”, Mr Yates admitted trying to find the “right home at the right price” could be stressful and time consuming.
Under the new provision, service providers would also need to set charges that better reflect the accommodation value they provide, rather than consumers being 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.
He added greater choice between periodic payments (like payment rent) or a lump sum or ‘bond’ would 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 overcharged fees that can’t be justified.
“All of 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.”