Nursing Home Fees
NURSING HOME FEES
The Hon. PATRICIA STAUNTON: Will the Minister for Aged Services outline the Government's view of recent reports that the Federal Government is contemplating requiring older people to sell their homes in order to pay up-front nursing home fees?
The Hon. R. D. DYER: I readily acknowledge the professional interest and knowledge of the Hon. Patricia Staunton in this area. I also acknowledge that she is chairing for me a consultative committee to examine the Federal Government's extraordinary proposal. I hope that the Hon. D. F. Moppett will listen to what I am about to say. The Hon. Patricia Staunton and I suggested during the debate on his motion to refer the proposed transfer of aged care to the Standing
Committee on Social Issues, that it would have made a lot more sense for him to use his influence with his Federal colleagues to obtain a workable proposal rather than refer to a committee a proposal that requires so much clarification that not even the Federal Minister for Family Services can explain her Government's position.
As honourable members may be aware, yesterday the Australian newspaper broke the story that the Federal Department of Family Services had suggested, among other things, that people with a saleable home or assets in excess of $60,000 were in the best position to pay up-front fees and that there was uncertainty about the capacity of the arrangements to provide sufficient funds to address immediate fire and safety concerns and meet community expectations. The Minister, the Hon. Judi Moylan, in response to the report and to questions in the House of Representatives yesterday, made some remarkable assertions. She said that people entering nursing homes could pay a higher monthly fee in lieu of a capital entry deposit and that her department and nursing home industry representatives had not been able to agree on the prudential arrangements to be introduced to protect up-front fees - a statement in direct contrast with the Minister's position of 21 August. She said also that entry fees of up to $80,000 could be charged and that pensioners who own their own home are supposed to negotiate with the owner of a nursing home some arrangement to allow their entry.
The proposal contained in this year's Federal budget is a joke and a farce. The working group that the Minister appointed to advise her has yet to complete its recommendations, yet her department has effectively blown the proposal out of the water. The family home of older people is far from being protected, but rather is under very serious threat. The prudential arrangements to protect entry fees are at best uncertain and will probably be insufficient to allow capital upgrading. The glorious "market" will more than likely force the cost of entry fees through the roof, but we cannot be certain about that because there is no upper limit on the entry fee.
Pensioners, probably just after they have left hospital after suffering from a stroke, are expected to negotiate their entry contributions with nursing home owners. The Federal Government should give us a break. The best thing that the Hon. D. F. Moppett could do is to ring the Federal Minister and say, "Start again." This latest information reinforces the appropriateness of the public position I took when these proposals were first floated: extreme caution. My private position was one of dismay and disbelief. I look forward to receiving from the Federal Minister a workable proposal on this important issue.