ACFI changes shun our elderly and leave physio providers reeling!

Original published by Sheryl Aldcroft on LinkedIn

At a recent industry conference we were told by government representatives that change to ACFI was coming. Whilst they left us guessing, we all speculated on what aspects of the ACFI funding instrument were most likely to be targeted for reform.

With the chronic pain management program high on the hit list, I don’t think anyone anticipated the massive change to the timing surrounding treatment delivery, coupled with the down scaling of the claim item, nor the impact that the proposed changes would have on the future viability of the program and to the industry’s physiotherapy service providers.

While many aged care providers are just now starting to get their heads around what these changes mean and how they will impact their bottom line going forward, the cold light of day has hit physio providers hard and left us reeling, pondering our future business models.

As it stands, the January 2017 ACFI changes may well spell the end to many aged care providers even offering entry to pain management programs due to the associated increase in costs of service. This is due largely to the introduction of the 120 minute per week treatment ruling, and also the changes to the ACFI scoring matrix for 4a and 4b pain management claims. Achievement of a “Medium” under the complex healthcare domain will, for most, be the maximum claim achievable.

As a physio provider in the marketplace I am left wondering whether the government even stopped to consider the severity of the impact that the announced changes would have on external allied health service providers. Under the existing ACFI funding arrangements, residents are able to access regular one on one physiotherapy to assist with pain relief. Most would agree has been of great benefit to our residents.

New residents entering facilities after January 2017, however, may not be afforded the same opportunity. In addition, with the details of new program delivery poorly defined, it leaves us all questioning how our ACFI auditors will be interpreting and applying the new ACFI business rules. How will auditors monitor program delivery for those falling under the unlimited treatment time for 4b claims versus those entering under the new ruling?

There is no denying that the introduction of the pain management program funding under ACFI saw a huge increase in demand for physiotherapists within the aged care industry which had never been seen before. This increase in demand for services has offered many physiotherapists an alternative career path and created employment for many therapists’ that would otherwise not have existed.

Similarly, the increased presence of physiotherapy services within aged care has had other positive spin off effects that have allowed residents to have improved access to other rehabilitation services and programs that would not otherwise have been offered.

Under the current proposed changes many of these therapists may well be facing redundancy as existing programs numbers dwindle over time and are not replaced. The need for therapists within the industry is likely to decline. What a sad day for residents residing in aged care that will be.

Once again our elderly Australian population suffers at the hands of our shortsighted government and their poorly informed decisions. If you please, Minister for Health, show me the evidence that supports your ridiculous claim that 120 mins/week of massage or electrotherapy is best practice for chronic pain management!

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