Home care reforms mean choice is now in your hands

Richard Laycock 22 February 2017 NEWS

Elderly patient in chair next to home care worker

New rules about choosing care homes are about to come into effect.

The home care industry in Australia is about to undergo a seismic shift with the rollout of Increasing Choice in Home Care (ICHC) reforms that come into effect on 27 February 2017.

These ICHC changes, which are part of larger overall reforms to the home care industry, will see consumers given a greater level of choice as providers are no longer allocated specific home care packages. The end of this restraint of trade will enable consumers who are eligible for these packages to choose from a range of approved service providers.

However, this freedom of choice could present some issues for consumers who don't fully understand what is changing.

finder.com.au spoke with chief executive of COTA Australia Ian Yates about the upcoming changes and asked him which issues were of importance to Australian consumers. "Consumers need to be aware that they will be asked to sign new contracts because there are changed conditions in regards to the ownership of the package, as the provider no longer owns the package – the consumer does," Yates said.

One area of particular concern for consumers is that of exit fees. "We [COTA] expect there will be a wide range of exit fees. And providers who are confident their services will charge low exit fees, which are purely to cover the admin costs associated with the transferring a consumer to a new provider," said Yates.

Founder of online home care platform Better Caring Peter Scutt also brought up the issue of exit fees in its list of tips for consumers considering switching home care providers. Scutt said that those planning on changing providers may be changed an exit fee, which (while not confirmed) may be capped by the Government at around $320.

Another point of contention raised by Yates was that of amount of notice, which relates to the amount of notice given prior to changing providers. Similarly, Scutt highlighted this area: "You have a responsibility to tell your provider of the day you intend to cease receiving home care services, before you change providers. You will need to agree this date with your current provider – and give them at least two weeks notice of this date."

How will these changes affect the consumers hip pocket?

Increased competition in the home care marketplace should create a more level playing field and also highlight providers whose services are not on par with the rest of the industry. "There are providers around that are overcharging, especially in terms of what they charge in terms of admin and care planning," Yates said. "Those providers overcharging are in for quite a shock as much of the competition are providing those services at a much lower price and giving the consumer a lot more choice of actual service.

"People should actively think about whether they are getting what they want and look around to see if there is someone offering more of what they want," Yates said.

While these changes will entice some people to switch provider immediately, Yates said that he believes that the vast majority of consumers will stay with their current provider until the dust has settled.

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