Aged Care Levy Possible, Says Minister

Aged Care Levy Possible, Says Minister
Australian Aged Care Minister Anika Wells addresses the National Press Club in Canberra, Wednesday, June 7, 2023. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells said two decades of inaction have left the federal government in a position where all options to fund higher standards of aged care are on the table, including a Medicare-style levy.

She believes the government has a “genuine duty to deliberate” a levy on taxpayers to help fund a better-aged care system.

“We need to have an honest, responsible, and mature discussion about what aged care is going to look like in this country,” Wells told ABC News on Sunday.

The minister said governments had failed to act on the future viability of the aged care sector for roughly 20 years.

“This is just one policy area that has been allowed to drift as ’too hard' for decades and decades.”

Last week, Wells used an address at the National Press Club to float the idea of a taxpayer levy to fund improvements to the sector.

The new aged care taskforce chaired by the minister will consider the funding instrument recommended by the royal commission inquiry into the sector.

But an aged care levy was not a Labor election policy, and the opposition has labelled the suggestion a “lazy” way to fund improvements in the sector.

“Putting a tax or a levy on the table up front, quite frankly, is a lazy way to go,” opposition aged care spokesperson Senator Anne Ruston told ABC Radio on Friday.

“There’s some pretty eminent and experienced people on that task force, and what we’re looking forward to is seeing some of the innovative and reformist ideas that they’re going to come up with.”

Wells said the taskforce was focused on ensuring older Australians have a choice when it comes to their care.

“Whether that’s a choice to stay at home for as long as possible, whether that’s a choice to enter a particular model of residential aged care,” she said,

The plan is to create policy settings that encourage investment in innovative models, such as village-style care seen in The Netherlands.

“We need a system that people feel like they’ve got a choice about where they go, and if they have the means to pay for it, they can do so,” Wells said.

She said older Australians wanted higher quality aged care but it wasn’t available.

But she said there should also be a safety net for people without means to have some options when it comes to their care.

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