My jobs scheme for Moresby has liftoff
Rabaul, Anzac & memories of war & peace

The great ‘My Aged Care’ package scam

A my-aged-care Simon Kneebone
Illustration by Simon Kneebone


“I always like to firm up vinaigrettes with some facts” – Garry Luhrs

The email came with a tantalising opener, “Hi Keith - I would like this scandal to be advertised far and wide.” In my business, it doesn’t come more pulse-racing than that. The missive came from former kiap and forever humourist Garry Luhrs, but it had a serious message. “This misappropriation of aged care funds is right across the board. Every provider appears to have front trotters and snouts in the trough. They seem to be creaming up to 70% of the funds as administrative expenses. This requires a Royal Commission. Any assistance that you can provide will be greatly appreciated.” So folks, if after reading Garry’s revelations you find you’ve had a similar experience, just drop him an email or a note in the Comments section and make sure Garry adds your case to the growing list - KJ

WUNDOWIE, WA - Greetings and salutations, survivors of the great PNG experiment who are still on the perch!

Lend me your eyes and ears. I am in search of volunteers who would like to be recruited to accompany me on my last patrol.

Like Don Quixote I have picked up my drooping old lance and am setting out on this last epic patrol to tilt once more at the windmills of an uncaring bureaucracy.

Last October I hosted a bacchanalian get together for the survivors (male and female boarders) of my final year at high school.

Food, bubbly and tales of past derring-do flowed freely and a jolly good time was enjoyed by all.

After the guests had departed and I was bumbling about in a confused, bemused state of advanced inebriation when I happened to trip over my little Shiatzu dog and in the outcome bouncing my old head on my old marble tiles.

The following day I was carted off to the regional hospital in Northam where I spent the next five weeks due to the injured head and resulting complications.

Amongst these was the discovery of a very enlarged prostate which entailed the insertion of a semi-permanent catheter. This to stay in place until appropriate urological procedures can be performed.

With this covid thing running rampant, when that can happen is in the lap of the gods.

As a result of this my GP, my nephrologists and my urologist did their wonders to perform and secured for me a Level 4 ‘My Aged Care’ package.

Then a care provider agency was found to administer my package and arrange services for me.

These included a domestic cleaner twice a week, two hours each visit, and a gardener for two hours a week.

A vehicle and driver were included in the package to take me to medical appointments, shopping excursions and the like.

I also requested one of those articulated beds and a new recliner chair.

All clear so far?

During these past few weeks, I have completed an exhaustive round of referrals to cardiologists, thoracic surgeons, magnetic imageologists, urologists, nephrologists, proctologists, vampires, pushologists, pullologists, prodologists and all of their sisters and their cousins and their aunts.

The findings were correlated and the prognosis delivered by a very attractive female doctor with long shapely legs.

I learned in talking with these gurus of the medical fraternity that they generally agree I am very old, fat, ugly and possess an extremely anti-social disposition.

Well, who can argue with that.

Now to get to the point of my rambling diatribe.

Month number one swung into action.

The cleaner/housekeeper arrived on time and miracles and wonders she did perform. Gardener likewise.

Month number two rolled around and I made an appointment to visit GP some 30 km distant. Not only is he the closest practitioner to where I live, he has been my man for over 25 years.

Travel time to and from GP - 40 minutes each way. Total - 80 minutes. Consultation - 15 minutes. Prescriptions filled at pharmacy adjacent to doctor’s surgery - 30 minutes.

The cost to My Aged Care submitted by the provider for a few minutes over two hours and 65 km by vehicle = $670. That be a surprise.

Shortly thereafter I had occasion to be taken to hospital in Perth for cardiological and urological consultancies, both specialists were on time and I did not have to wait.

Each consultation lasting less than an hour and travel time 90 minutes each way for each visit.

A got your package-yet Simon Kneebone
Illustration by Simon Kneebone

Costs and charges increased in proportion to my previous medical excursion.

These experiences gave me cause to have a close look at the charges made against the My Aged Care account.

What I saw got me thinking, so I made some enquiries amongst member of the local senior citizens association, the bowls club and the men’s shed as well as members of my sister’s church group.

To my surprise, I was informed of just under 400 incidents of obvious malpractice bordering on malfeasance by the providers of the My Aged Care packages.

One old lady had an aged care package for five months during which time she had supposedly received: the services of a cleaner for four hours a week; a trip to the local supermarket, 15 minutes away, for one hour; and transport to visit her GP and for other medical services.

In fact, the agency had not delivered any of these services.

The old lady’s daughter-in-law had done her cleaning, laundry and other housekeeping as well as taking her shopping twice a week and providing transport to visit her GP and the other services.

Other people I spoke with told me of similar overcharging or billing for non-existent visits and trips.

Some had levied charges for cleaning and other services ostensibly performed when the aged client was in hospital or away from home for some other reason.

I also talked with the cleaners and drivers employed by the aged care agencies and came across a general belief that billions of dollars are probably being ripped off from the accounts of aged care clients.

So here’s the point of this piece: If you receive a My Aged Care package, or know anyone who does, and you’ve become aware of these rip offs, I’d like you to contact me and advise of the circumstances.

I don’t need to know the company’s name, just the location and a brief note about what occurred.

I really want to hit the authorities with as many cases of malfeasance as I can muster.

I can be contacted by email to [email protected], through the Comments link below or at 08 9573 6594 by your telephone.

Stay well and keep the aspidistras flying!


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Chris Overland

Hi Garry - I agree with your assessment of the situation. The Federal bureaucracy has never had much expertise in program delivery, plus their insistence upon handing money to essentially unproven new businesses entering the aged care and disability ‘markets’ for the first time, has meant that many decidedly dodgy operators have been able to take advantage of their very poor quality assurance and accountability processes to pillage the system.

I have had extensive experience in handing out money for community based aged care and disability services (through the old Home and Community Care Program) and I can assure you that only the big NGO’s and solidly community based organisations have both the will and capacity to deliver decent services at an efficient price.

Some of the biggest private for profit organisations also have this capability but you have to subject them to very close scrutiny. In South Australia I had a staff of about 30 people who did nothing but keep a close eye on service providers so that we could be confident that they did a good job. Plainly, the latter is not happening at the moment.

Add to all this the fact that the Feds are notoriously prone to under funding services, especially for complex and high need cases, and you have a recipe for what we have now, which is a mess.

Ian Yates of Council for the Ageing and shadow health minister Mark Butler know this perfectly well, so if you approach them, what you have to say will further confirm to them that their concerns are valid plus provide additional first hand information about what is going on.

Personally, I think we are in Royal Commission territory but even an Albanese government may shrink from this as it may simply delay urgently needed systemic reforms.

Fixing the problems is going to be a nightmare. The squeals from private operators who do not welcome close scrutiny (which they label as ‘red tape’) will be loud and prolonged.

Also, Treasury will whinge like mad about the additional costs involved: their corporate motto is ‘Tell Someone Who Cares’.

The best bet probably is to get the Feds to hand over program administration to the states and territories although they may be very reluctant to accept this owing to the Feds penchant for dudding them on funding in too many other areas (such as hospitals, schools and universities).

In short, it is going to be a veritable shit fest of responsibility dodging, squealing interest groups, special pleading and rent seeking even if there is some pretty exceptional political will to do the job properly.

Reform will, of course, be resisted tooth and nail by the LNP, which is utterly in thrall to private interests of all kinds. With luck, there will be a new Federal ICAC to impose urgently needed adherence to due process and ethical conduct upon our national government which will feed into the process of reform in other areas.

So, I regret to say there will be no quick fixes to the problems you have identified but at least the process can be got under way.

Bernard Corden

"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright."

- Dylan Thomas

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