Who said deregulation was easy? Australia’s movement to allocate home care packages to consumers has not been a smooth one. There are more than 100,000 Australians on the waiting list to receive their home care package, with 41,000 of those on an interim lower care package. The bottleneck has been difficult for both Australians waiting to be serviced, and aged care providers who have are running well below capacity.
Most concerning about the rise in interim home care packages is the 60,500 queue of level 4 packages (the highest level of care) worth an estimated $3bn in revenue for Australian home care providers – almost double what the government is currently spending on home care. The high demand for level 4 packages has driven the allocation of more stop-gap, lower care packages to those who are waiting, rather than packages that meet the desired or approved level of care.
It appears to be a game of catch up, with a total of 28.2% (9,233 out of 32,722) of assigned home care packages allocated during the three months to September 2017, with only 71.8% of those packages giving the desired level of care. Most concerning for home care providers is the gradual rise in the proportion of home care packages allocated for an interim purpose, rising from 24.2% in July to 32.6% in September.
Deregulation in the industry is placing greater onus on aged care providers to focus on customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, in the context of a growing queue of Australians waiting for home care, complaints from aged care consumers rose by 19.7% in the year to June 2017. Customer satisfaction and retention for aged care providers has become just as much about managing delays as it has about focusing on their value proposition and service offering.
The queue for home care packages has been a long running issue, however it’s severity has no doubt grown. Despite the huge forecast growth in the home care sector, bottle-necks in package assignment and subsidy delivery remain the largest challenge.
December’s data, due out in March 2018, will provide some insight into how government is managing the issue, and how aged care providers should react to manage the customer experience.