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What new aged care bills passed in Parliament?

Parliament has returned this week for the first time since May’s Federal Election - which saw the Labor Party voted into power - and a couple of aged care reform bills were introduced foreshadowing big changes for the sector.

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Minister for Aged Care, Anika Well, introduced the two aged care reform bills into Parliament on Wednesday. [Source: Twitter]

The Albanese Government made a number of aged care related promises and commitments in the lead up to the Election, which they are now able to start implementing.

On Wednesday, the Albanese Government introduced two bills that will have wide ranging effects on the aged care sector.

These bills will also have a positive impact on older Australians who access aged care services.

So what aged care reform has been introduced to Parliament?

Royal Commission responses

The Aged Care and Other Legislation Amendment (Royal Commission Response) Bill 2022 outlines how recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will be implemented in the industry.

Reforms include:

  • Implementation of the new Australian National Aged Care Classification (AN-ACC) funding model which will replace the current Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) model
  • Introduction of a star ratings system for consumers to identify providers that deliver quality aged care
  • New Code of Conduct for approved providers and their workers
  • An extension of the incident management and reporting system
  • Governance changes, such as "suitability requirements" for key personnel and requirements for executive structures in aged care
  • Improved information sharing between Government bodies, providers and workers
  • Further powers for the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commissioner
  • Modifications to the regulation of restrictive practices in aged care
  • Implementation and expansion of the new Independent Health and Aged Care Pricing Authority

One thing missing from this Bill compared to the former Government's legislation was the introduction of aged care worker screenings by approved providers.

This Bill - which is similar to legislation developed by the former Liberal Government that did not pass - was passed through the House of Representatives on Wednesday. The Bill is currently being debated in the Senate today.

For the Federal Government, this legislation is the first to pass through Parliament under the new leadership.

Home care charge caps and nursing mandates

The Aged Care Amendment (Implementing Care Reform) Bill 2022 that was also introduced has four main aims for the aged care sector:

  • Mandate at least one Registered Nurse on site and on duty at all times within residential aged care facilities from 1 July 2023
  • Ensure minimum care minutes per aged care resident from October 2023
  • The Government will be able to put caps on home care fees that providers charge their consumers, for example, management or administration fees. Additionally, the Bill will not allow providers to charge exit fees when a consumer leaves their service. These changes are from 1 January 2023
  • Providers will be required to be transparent and publish certain information - including financial spend on food, nursing and profits - around aged care services from 1 December 2022

This legislation was introduced and discussed in Parliament on Wednesday, but is still sitting in the House of Representatives.

Additional changes

Along with these bills, there have been two other big changes that will affect the aged care landscape.

Reforms for home care have been delayed by a year and will be delivered by 1 July 2024. This delay has been welcomed by the aged care sector, as focus is currently on ongoing issues with staff shortages this winter.

For now, the four types of in home care - Commonwealth Home Support Programme, Home Care Packages, Short Term Restorative Care and residential respite referrals - will remain unchanged.

Additionally, the Bill that was introduced to mandate 24/7 nursing in aged care does come with a caveat - providers can seek exemptions.

However, the Government has not outlined what requirements are necessary for a provider to get an exemption. With the ongoing staff shortages in aged care, this exemption could be used for providers in rural and regional areas that are struggling to find workers.

Minister for Aged Care, Anika Wells, also confirmed that the Government will be making a submission to the Fair Work Commission about the current aged care wages case by 8 August.

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