Increase Medicare levy to pay for aged care, health union says | Aged care

The Health Services Union has called for the Medicare levy to be increased from 2% to 2.65% to fund the necessary improvements in aged care as the Morrison government’s record during the pandemic faces ongoing scrutiny when parliament resumes on Monday.

The HSU has used a final submission to the aged care royal commission to argue the additional costs of delivering high quality care to Australians in residential care could be between $2bn and $27bn over four years, depending on the policy options.

The union says the key to any turnaround in the aged care sector will be boosting the salary of the workforce in an effort to attract higher quality staff, increase retention rates and reduce the level of churn in the sector.

The HSU submission notes that labour costs are the biggest proportion of aged care costs, with approximately 100,000 full-time equivalent care staff employed across Australia. But it says full-time personal care workers on award rates of pay earn between $20.73 per hour and $25.18 per hour, which is only marginally above the minimum hourly wage set by the Fair Work Commission of $19.49 per hour.

In order to estimate the increased costs of improving the system, the submission models combinations of salary increases for staff and increasing care hours in order to align Australian aged care standards with a star rating system that exists in the United States.

It says depending on the level of the salary increase combined with increasing the number of staff caring for aged care residents, the Medicare levy would need to increase by between 0.1 and 0.65%.

Research conducted for the aged care royal commission released last week found an extra $621m a year would be needed to lift all aged care homes in Australia up to “basic standards”.

The University of Queensland research found that aged care homes fell into three quality groups, with 11% at the top, 78% in the middle and 11% at the bottom.

According to that paper, the facilities most likely to be in the best quality group were small-sized or government-owned homes. The top quality group contained 24% of government-owned homes, 13% of not-for-profit homes and just 4% of for-profit homes.

Scott Morrison has signalled that the aged care royal commission is likely to recommend significant reform, and he has called for Labor to take a bipartisan approach. Last week, the Labor leader Anthony Albanese pointed the finger at for-profit care, and said it was clear structural reform to the sector would be required.

On Sunday, Albanese was asked on the ABC whether he would be open to increasing the Medicare levy to fund the necessary improvements in the sector. He did not rule that out.

“We’ll examine the royal commission when it comes out with regard to structural change that’s required,” the Labor leader said. Albanese said the royal commissioners had already concluded the sector was suffering from neglect.

“Labor oversaw the creation of Medicare to deal with our health system as a whole. It was Labor that pioneered the National Disability Insurance Scheme,” he said. “Labor has a fine record, a proud record, of delivering major reform.”

Albanese said as well as a long-term fix, there needed to be a short term response to the problems that had surfaced during the Victorian outbreak of Covid-19. More than 300 people have died in residential aged care during the second wave.

On Sunday Victoria recorded 114 new cases and 11 more deaths. The fatalities were a man in his 70s, five women and one man in their 80s and three women and one man in their 90s, with nine of the 11 deaths linked to outbreaks at aged care facilities.

The Morrison government has faced heavy criticism since the counsel assisting the aged care royal commission, Peter Rozen QC, told that inquiry there was no specific Covid-19 plan and accused the federal government of displaying “a degree of self-congratulation and even hubris” in the crucial months between Sydney’s Newmarch House outbreak in April and the Victorian second wave in mid-June.

The government has rejected arguments there was no plan.

Labor used every question of question time last week to home in on aged care and the pandemic. The opposition is expected to persist with aged care during the looming parliamentary sitting week.

Source: The Guardian

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *