Physiotherapists and older Australians have achieved a win in the ongoing discussions to reform the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI), after Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt announced on 6 December that the time limits on 12.4b programs would be set at 80 minutes. The initial proposal was to impose a 120-minute delivery criterion.

The Australian Physiotherapy Association had been calling for a 40-minute delivery criterion to balance high quality patient care with a sustainable business model. The new 80-minute limit ensures that pain management is still viable, while weeding out some of the worst practices that have been allowed to flourish under ACFI.

The new proposal will also set a one-year freeze on indexation, followed by a 50 per cent freeze in the subsequent year. These changes are more moderate than the initial proposals, announced in May 2016, to overhaul the physiotherapy and pain management components of ACFI in order to slow ballooning government expenditure on aged care.

Rik Dawson, National Chair of the APA Gerontological Physiotherapy group, has heavily influenced the review process through his positions on the National Aged Care Alliance and the ACFI Technical Reference Group.

The latest announcement on ACFI is good news for physiotherapy practices offering aged care services, ensuring that their businesses are still profitable, as well as for individual physiotherapists who previously faced some uncertainty around their jobs.

The APA’s position on ACFI remains unchanged by Tuesday’s announcement: the funding instrument is still fundamentally broken and requires significant overhaul to ensure that older Australians are given high quality evidence-based care that promotes mobility, function and independence.

Mr Dawson and the APA will continue to work with the government through the ACFI Technical Reference Group to transform the aged care system into a model that works for both clinicians and patients.

This needs to be a system that’s focused on the independence of older Australians, rather than the current model that rewards disability.


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