With aged care assessments set to be put to tender in a few months, concerns have been escalating about potential conflicts of interest arising from assessors aligned with single organisations or modes of care.

Voices in the industry have raised concerns with HelloCare that conflicts of interest may mean vulnerable older people miss out on the care they need.

Older Australians put at risk

One industry insider told HelloCare they were concerned assessors may be tempted to refer customers only to their own service if they need home care rather than all options available to them, rather than providing a range of options to choose from.

“My main concern about (the new aged care assessment process) is the potential or actual conflict of interest if home care providers are doing assessments on older people and then also referring them to their own service,” they said.

The insider also said they were concerned assessors who work for a home care company may be tempted to encourage the elderly person and their family to stay in their own home whilst their company provides home care services when in fact it is not in the best interest of the older person and that they would be more suitable for residential aged care. 

In these situations, consumers may potentially not  receive the most sound advice and level of care they need, putting them at risk.

“My other concern is that if the older person does in fact need to be in an aged care home that these ‘home care assessment agencies’ will be conflicted to want to keep the older person at home so that they can keep then as a client rather than them go into aged care,” they said.

“This will all come down to what types of services are allowed to assess older people,” they said.

Government assurances provide limited comfort

A statement from the Department of Health to HelloCare received on 9 January 2020 said processes will be put in place to ensure that aged care providers will not be able to benefit from assessments they perform.

These “processes” that will be put in place remain unclear at this point.

“The Government will ensure that companies that run aged care services are not advantaged by being associated with an assessment organisation,” the statement said.

Despite the government’s assurances, many in the industry are concerned that providers could be advantaged by being able to provide assessment services.

HelloCare reached out to the Department for more information, but at the time of publishing had not yet received a response.

The Department will hold another webinar on the changes to the ACAT on Wednesday 12 February 2020.

This webinar will provide an update on the development of new aged care assessment arrangements and address common themes arising from stakeholder questions during the December 2019 webinar.

Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions about the new arrangements from representatives from the Department of Health.

You can register to attend here.

Image: Stock image used. Models are posed. Source: StockPlanets, iStock.

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