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Privatising aged care assessments- why the fuss?

Does privatising aged care assessments lead to poorer health outcomes for seniors?

Key Points

  • Aged Care Royal Commission recommended integrating the multiple agency aged care assessment process

  • Government proposal to put these services to tender has sparked claims of privatisation

  • Doctors are calling on the government to abandon the proposal and keep private interests out of the process

Currently, if you want to be assessed for taxpayer subsidised aged care you must be assessed by federal government funded Aged Care Assessment Teams (ACAT) or the Regional Assessment Services (RAS). In most cases, these services are delivered by the states and territories. 

The Aged Care Royal Commission recommended these services be replaced by a single assessment process. 

The federal government agreed and is proposing to do so by putting the services to tender, potentially including aged care providers and other commercial interests. 

This has led some state governments, aged care advocates, and medical peak bodies to slam the move as privatising the assessment process. 

The latest voice to join in are doctors. The Australian Medical Association (AMA) is urging the government to scrap plans that could potentially privatise the assessment process for aged care services, warning the move would risk the health of older Australians and open the system up to conflicts of interest.  

The AMA said the process must remain with the state and territory health services, and be based on Aged Care Assessment Teams, rather than the Regional Assessment Services model that only assesses lower needs.  

The Royal Commission did not recommend privatisation but the AMA said the tender process plans leaves assessments open to privatisation and conflicts of interest, with providers likely to seek to take on this role.  

“Aged care assessments must remain independent of aged care providers and be delivered by health professionals, especially geriatricians who are trained in dealing with the complex medical needs of the frail and elderly,” AMA President Dr Khorshid said.  

The AMA said the Royal Commission’s recommendation was very clear that assessors must be independent from providers because they are effectively deciding on a person’s level of funding for aged care services, such as home care packages. 

Government response

The Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Senator Richard Colbeck, said the Government has consistently refuted claims that its intention is to privatise the assessment process for aged care. 

“The tender arrangements will include measures to ensure that conflicts of interest are managed," said Senator Colbeck.

How aged care assessments are changing

From October 2022, the single assessment workforce will be responsible for residential aged care funding assessments as the transition to the Australian National Aged Care Classification occurs. 

The government says this will establish a more integrated aged care system that provides a continuum of services for senior Australians. There are currently three different assessment workforces: 

  • Regional Assessment Services for the Commonwealth Home Support Programme
  • Aged Care Assessment Teams for the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, Short Term Restorative Care, Transition Care, Home Care Packages, Residential Respite and entry to Residential Care, and;
  • Clinicians working in residential aged care making assessments for residential care funding. 

Health Department information says, “This means under the current arrangements, senior Australians must undergo multiple assessments with different assessment organisations as their needs change, and assessments are not consistent.” 

Source: Australian Medical Association

Source: Australian Government Department of Health

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