The Department of Social Services (DSS) has issued a discussion paper announcing that from February 2017, the home care system is set for major changes that will substantially affect the delivery of home care by approved providers.  Any existing residential or flexible care provider will be able to ‘opt in’ to deliver home care and there will be a redirection of the management of packages from the approved provider to the care recipient. The discussion paper continues the overall reforms announced in the Living Longer Living Better reforms of 2013.

So what are the key changes to home care and how will they affect approved providers?

1.   No ACAR for home care.

Approved providers will no longer be allocated places for home care. Instead, the care recipient will be assigned a package from a national pool that will be managed through the My Aged Care Website.  The funding for the package will attach to the care recipient, giving them flexibility in choosing their approved provider.

Importantly, the total number of packages will continue to be capped.

2.   Approved providers can “opt in” to home care

Existing providers of residential care and flexible care will be able to “opt in” to become home care providers through a simple process.

As a result, the total number of packages assigned to consumers will continue to be capped but the pool of approved providers able to deliver home care is likely to increase.

Further residential, flexible, and home care provider status will no longer lapse after 2 years if the providers do not hold an allocation of places.

3.   Prioritisation of care recipients for home care packages

There will be a national system implemented for prioritising packages for care recipients.  My Aged Care will manage the waiting list and prioritisation process and will refer care recipients with packages to approved providers.

4.   All home care packages delivered on a CDC basis

There is an increased emphasis on the consumer being able to exercise choice within the package which is likely to involve more sub-contracting or brokerage of services.

The idea is that the care recipient can “shop around” when the approved provider is unable to provide specific services.

5.   Home care packages are “portable”

A care recipient can take their package to any approved provider in any location in Australia.  Whereas currently the approved provider is allocated a place and the package is not portable.

6.   Unspent funds stay with the care recipient

Any funds within the package that are not spent can be transferred to new approved providers.

Where the care recipient leaves subsidised home care, the following options are put forward on the treatment of unspent funds:

  1. all unspent funds are retained by the existing approved provider;
  2. all unspent funds are returned to the Commonwealth;
  3. the unspent funds are apportioned between the care recipient and the Commonwealth contributions and returned to each party by the approved  provider.

The DSS is seeking feedback on this issue.

What about service providers generally?

The discussion paper does not discuss service providers who are not currently “approved providers” but do provide services to care recipients.  It is unclear whether they will be able to engage directly with care recipients through the My Aged Care website. 

The discussion paper states that once a care recipient has been notified that they have been assigned a package, they can contact any approved provider who in turn will consider whether they have the capacity to provide the service (taking into account the potential to sub-contract or broker services). 

The DSS is contemplating that approved providers will in some cases sub-contract but it is not clear whether these “sub-contracted” service providers will be available to care recipients directly. 

These changes (and more) are detailed in the discussion paper released by the DSS titled “Increasing Choice in Home Care – Stage 1”.  This paper is open for consultation until 27 October 2015 on the DSS website here.