The Democrats and the Liberals have struck a deal guaranteeing the passage of the Liberals' Aged Care Reform Bill through the Senate. The Australian Nursing Federation slammed the Democrats for caving in to the federal government, saying, "The interests of the nursing home proprietors have been put ahead of the residents".
WA Greens Senator Dee Margetts told parliament during the second reading of the bill on June 25 that it "is a dreadful version of the ideological preference for user-pays and government cuts. We are going to be moving from duty of care to duty of profit."
The deal will deliver an extra $40 million in funding, yet in the 1996 budget $500 million was cut from aged care. The acting national secretary of the ANF, Denis Jones, told Green Left that at least $200 million in extra funding is required.
The government's initial legislation included the introduction of entry fee bonds as high as $100,000 and a government payment of $5 per day to nursing homes for each resident who is exempt from the entry fee (that is, residents who are poor).
The entry fees are to remain. Aged people may still have to sell the family home to gain entry into nursing homes.
Nursing homes which have up to 40% of concessional residents will now receive $7 per day per resident. Nursing homes which have more than 40% concessional residents will now get a $12 per day per resident subsidy.
The entry bonds will generate an average of $19 per day per resident, generating a significant incentive for nursing homes to admit entry fee residents rather than poor or disadvantaged concessional residents.
Another problem, says Jones, is that there is insufficient financial accountability. There is a danger that government money "could be siphoned off into profit", he said.