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Living Longer Living Better Bills Passed

03 Jul 2013

On Wednesday 26 June 2013, the five amended Living Longer Living Better Bills (Bills) were passed in the upper house (Senate) by 34 votes to 29.  The reform package then returned to the lower house and was passed without further debate.

The passed bills implement reforms in four key areas:

  • Changes to establish a new type of care (home care).
  • Changes relating to residential care.
  • Changes relating to governance and administration.
  • Changes that are minor, administrative or consequential.

The key amendments to the Bills include:

  • Delayed start date of amendments set out in Schedule 1 to the Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Bill 2013 (Cwth) planned to commence from 1 July 2013 to 1 August 2013:
    • the amendments in Schedule 1 relate primarily to changes from home care to community care; and
    • the delayed start date is to enable the Government time to communicate the proposed legislative changes (including delegated legislation, regulations, guidelines or principles) to the aged care sector and to enable the sector to adapt to the changes.
  • Provisions of the Bills that are due to commence at later dates (that is, provisions due to commence on 1 August 2013, 1 January 2014 or 1 July 2014 are unaffected).
  • The Aged Care Pricing Commissioner (ACPC) be established on 1 August 2013 (rather than 1 January 2014) so that providers have more time to apply to the ACPC for approval to charge accommodation payments that are higher than the maximum set by the Minister.  This will provide certainty about the prices that a provider can charge from 1 July 2014.
  • Recognising the Aged Care Financing Authority (ACFA) as a statutory committee separate from Department of Health and Ageing (DOHA).
  • New powers to be granted to the Age Care Commissioner to request and receive information from DOHA and the new Quality Agency.
  • Recognising people affected by forced adoptions as a ‘special needs’ group.
  • A new Veterans’ Supplement.
  • Renaming the new Dementia Supplement to recognise that the supplement also covers people affected by cognitive impairment and complex behaviours.  The supplement has been renamed as:
    • Dementia and Cognition Supplement (for home care); and
    • Dementia and Severe Behaviours Supplement (for residential care).
  • A new Homelessness Supplement for those providers who specialise in caring for people with a history of, or at risk of, homelessness.
  • Amendments to the new Workforce Supplement guidelines to help address concerns over implementation costs, where any excess supplement funding may be used to support additional workforce commitments, such as implementation costs.

In addition to the passing of the Bills, the Minister for Ageing committed to making available $6.9 million over three (3) years to the aged care sector to assist aged care providers in transitioning to the new accommodation payments system.  As part of this package, the Government has agreed to subsidise business advisory services for residential aged care providers to assist providers in the transition.

Separately, the Sex Discrimination Amendment (Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Intersex Status) Bill 2013 (Cwth) (Sex Discrimination Bill) which makes it unlawful for aged care providers to discriminate against the special needs group of lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, passed both houses of Parliament on 25 June 2013.  The intent of the passage of the Sex Discrimination Bill is to improve access to Commonwealth-funded faith based aged care.

The passage of the Sex Discrimination Bill means aged care providers will no longer be able to rely on the religious exemption previously available to them and the Australian Human Rights Commission will relevantly, now be able to accept, investigate and resolve complaints of discrimination against the special needs group of LGBTI people in an aged care context.

The Coalition voted against the reform Bills.  However, the Coalition did support:

  • the changes to home care levels and arrangements;
  • the introduction of the homelessness supplement;
  • establishing ACFA as a senate committee; and
  • granting the Age Care Commissioner new powers to request information from the DOHA.

Where to from here?

Public Consultation for the draft guidelines in relation to the three (3) new supplements and home care packages program has now closed with comments and feedback currently being considered by DOHA.  DOHA will issue the finalised guidelines once the legislative framework is in place.  The delegated legislation that commences on 1 August 2013 is due to be finalised and registered before that date.

Public consultations will continue on the subordinate legislation coming into effect on 1 January 2014 and 1 July 2014, with DOHA to provide further information on consultation on the subordinate legislation shortly.

Once the final guidelines are issued, Hynes Legal will provide further information outlining how the changes will impact your business, including what steps you need to take in order to be able to access the three new supplements and deliver home care on a CDC basis.

Additionally, Hynes Legal and LASA Queensland will be holding a CDC Masterclass entitled ‘Legal Essentials for Home Care Providers’ on Wednesday, 24 July 2013, so please save the date.

More information regarding the masterclass will be released shortly, if you have any questions or are interested in attending please email marketing@hyneslegal.com.au

Separately, we can also assist you in formulating submissions to the aged care pricing commissioner regarding charging higher accommodation payments.

Contact:

Julie McStay, Director
Christina Evans, Associate