The cost of getting older


As a person in his 90s and formerly involved in community affairs, may I take up the cudgels on behalf of the great number of elderly people who receive Government subsidised Home Care Packages for assistance with their housekeeping and physical care costs.

The whole point of this letter to your well-regarded newspaper is not so much to take aim at the ‘non-profit charitable organisations’ which provide our aged people with 1-4 levels of graded services, depending on their proven ill-health and age status.

It is more to point out to Australian Federal Governments of all persuasions that they are actually encouraging a form of mass profit on their own taxpayer subsidised funds by certain HCP providers.

I would sincerely ask whether this state of affairs over the years is not, in fact, working directly against the Government’s own need to keep the aged in care at home and not in more costly public accommodation?

A growing number of Clarence Valley aged package holders have for the past 18 months been in contact with me about this matter and have offloaded great concerns about the level of hard-earned Government tax money being charged to their own package accounts by certain providers throughout Australia.

The general feeling is that the elderly are having their subsidised home care monies reduced by approximately 30 per cent by what is, in effect, a Government- ordered plan for them to do so. In fact, I have been personally told by HCP providers that the problem is not of their making. Rather, it is a case of the Government allowing providers to accumulate big profits to their own account.

Since the recent Royal Commission into aged care matters, the Government has once again continued to allow all HCP subsidised funds to carry a joint 30 per cent charge on both the care and package components of all official HCP schemes. In addition to this, many providers also charge an average of about $76 an hour for both home cleaning and personal care services.

To appreciate the extent of what I would call “excessive overcharging,” may I point out that a general Level 3 package contains a $40,524 annual Government subsidy but, with the 30 per cent dual management fee included, the recipient loses $12,000 by way of the fee together with an additional amount of about $19,760 a year for five hours of housework and care a week. This immediately reduces the recipient’s annual Government-aided HCP assistance by $31,760, leaving only $8,764 (or $168 a week) for any highly needed or essential remedial work and/or medical aids etc.

Should the Government in its wisdom ever decide to allow commercial cleaning firms to be employed on HCP packages, the current hourly cost of such firms ranges from $45 to $55 an hour — and they provide their own cleaning equipment and materials!

In the case of a Level 4 package holder, the five-hour home cleaning cost would only be $275 instead of $560 a week, saving $285 a week (or $14,820 a year) and leaving a sufficient package subsidy to give aged recipients confidence in facing the future, already clouded by continuing inflation, increased medical fees, the growing absence of GP bulk billing and the high cost of public aged care accommodation of their choice.

Oscar Tamsen, Yamba