Pressure builds to reverse aged-care cuts

3 minute read

Aged-care advocates are in talks with sympathetic crossbench MPs to block $1.2 billion in budget cuts


Aged-care advocates are in talks with sympathetic crossbench MPs to block $1.2 billion in budget cuts for residential-care patients, promising all sides of politics are about to feel the rising power of the grey vote.  

The Turnbull government outlined the cuts in the 3 May budget, after it projected a $3.8 billion blow-out over four years in subsidies for high-care residential patients. The blow-out prediction is in dispute, with the sector saying there is no hard evidence to support it.  

Industry groups also say the government underestimated the impact by $350 million and the harsh cuts will take away essential staff and healthcare for the most vulnerable Australians and add to pressures on hospitals. 

Paul Sadler, national president of Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), said research released last week showed the cuts would shear away $6000 a year, or 11%, in funding for services for each patient.  

“We say, that’s too high,” he told The Medical Republic. “That’s going to substantially impact on the allied health services and levels of nursing support that we need to provide.

 “It’s particularly heinous in our mind that the section the government has cut is the section that supports people with complex healthcare needs. It potentially means a big cost shift back to state hospitals, because where else are people going to go?”

 While Labor had failed to come up with a counter-promise to restore the spending, senate crossbenchers, including Senators Nick Xenophon and Jackie Lambie, and Andrew Wilkie in the lower house, had been very sympathetic to the sector’s reform plans.

 “We fully understand the financial constraints on government,” Mr Sadler said. “But I don’t think making an 11% cut to older people with some of the most complex healthcare needs in residential aged care is a good outcome for anybody.” 

 ACSA, the non-profit sector leader, and other groups had been holding meetings with the crossbenchers through the election campaign and were following up with those who look like being elected, he said.

 Ian Yates, chief executive of the Councils for the Ageing, said he believed aged-care reform would become an even more volatile issue electorally than Labor’s Save Medicare campaign.

 In a recent survey of 1000 Australians, about half said a good aged-care plan would potentially change their vote. But among the one-third who had personal experience of the aged-care system, the ratio shot up to 74%.  

“We have no doubt that a head of steam will build up between now and the next election,” he said.

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