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Rod – Hobart

Are you entitled to aged care?

Imagine if you had reached the age at which you qualify for the Australian aged pension and you went into Centrelink and were told “I’m sorry, but you miss out because only 116 people out of every 1000 people of pension age actually get a pension. All the pensions for this area are taken at the moment and you will have to wait until there is a vacancy.”

Obviously this is an absurd scenario – or is it?

Aged care in Australia is rationed. A ratio of residential places and home care packages is set for every 1000 people over the age of 70. Under the Living Longer Living Better reforms this number will rise to 125 (combined) for every 1000 people. This will create a greater supply but there will still be waiting lists – that is, people who have been assessed as requiring care but who cant get it immediately because there aren’t any “vacancies”.

The Australian National Aged Care Alliance (NACA) has a vision of the future where everyone who requires aged care gets it. That is, they are entitled to it and it is delivered when it is needed.

Does this sound utopian? Lets look at it another way.

Do Australians believe that older people who require care should get care? Or – do Australians believe that only a certain number of older people who require care (say 116 out of every 10000 who might need it) should get it?

COTA CEO Ian Yates sketched the hypothetical scenario of a rationing of pensions to highlight the absurdity of the aged care planning ratio when compared with an entitlement to care, at the highly successful and stimulating COTA National Policy Forum in Canberra yesterday.

The NACA wanted a system based on entitlement to aged care to be introduced through the Government’s response to the Productivity Commission report on aged care in Australia. Instead the Government continued with (an albeit increased, over time) rationing approach.

Yates indicated that COTA will campaign on this issue at the forthcoming election- that is, continue to push for a system based on entitlement. The comparison with the aged pension is a powerful one. If people of a certain age who meet certain requirements are entitled to a pension then why is it that we accept that people of a certain age who meet certain requirements are not entitled to receive aged care – rather than just be assessed as being eligible for it?

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