Excessive exit fees and minimum notice periods could turn the hype of increased choice and control in home care into a fallacy, an advocacy group has warned.
Brenton Pope from Aged Rights Advocacy Service told the ADA Australia conference recently that the potential for fees and contract terms to act as barriers to consumers voting with their feet had already been identified as an issue to monitor.
Many providers were still grappling with the transition to operating in a market-based aged care system where organisations compete for customers by selling the value of their service, Mr Pope said.
The home care sector certainly has a way to go before it is fully operating on a market-based model that facilitated genuine choice and free movement. “Fundamental to the consumer having choice and control is the ability to come and go as you please, which is hampered by some providers through exit fees and minimum notice periods.
“My local butcher doesn’t tell me that if I want to go somewhere else for my meat it will cost me $500, and my local baker doesn’t tell me that if I want my bread somewhere else I need to give him 30 days’ notice.” Mr Pope was quoted to say.
In many ways consumer choice is still constrained in home care – for instance, in a rural and remote context where market competition did not exist.
Importance of consumer advocates
Another key principle to a market model is the ability for consumers to make direct comparisons between services and independent provision of information and advocacy would be increasingly important in a consumer-directed environment. Unfortunately it is still difficult for new private providers, like Country Mile, to be listed on the Myagedcare website or be promoted through government health care services.
It is essential to have a strong and independent advocacy service to ensure the consumers can have someone to support and provide them with some degree of objectivity around what services are available, how to access them and how to self- manage their funding.
Personally I am not surprised that these issues are occurring. Existing providers have been given the opportunity since 2014 to investigate the new system and transition to the new system. They were even given funding to assist them to ensure their systems would be operational. I am amazed that organisations can say its a work in progress, the progress should of started in 2014. I think the barrier is their reluctance to embrace the new. Like Country Mile Home Care, there are lots of new organisations coming on the market who have and will embrace it and improve it. I suggest to all clients looking for new providers to give the old providers stuck in the past a miss and try the new private providers who are switched on and are offering innovative services without the outrageous fees!