A National-NZ First coalition

New Zealand First has a fairly well articulated aged care and seniors policy. While some of their plans differ from National’s, there is also some alignment.

Importantly, NZ First is all for reviewing the funding of the residential aged care sector. In fact, the party says it wants to conduct a review into the aged care sector; this review would include the funding of rest homes “particularly after pay equity”. This would indicate that NZ First is likely to be on board with the sector funding review that is already underway.

Some aged care providers expect the review to result in pushing more costs onto the resident and their families.

Prices have already gone up as a result of the pay equity settlement announcement. The settlement saw the price residents in aged care facilities with assets above the threshold pay increased by an average of 9.9 per cent on 1 July 2017.

At the recent New Zealand Aged Care Association conference, National MP Simon O’Connor indicated that his party would be prepared to support pushing more costs onto the customer. NZ First’s Fletcher Tabuteau did not – nor did Labour or the Greens.

In fact, NZ First wants to remove income and asset testing for older people needing long stay hospital care services. National relies on the financial means testing as a way of controlling aged care subsidies.

NZ First wants to ensure these subsidies are automatically adjusted for CPI inflation.

Palliative care is another area that NZ First wants to see fully funded by the Government.

In March this year, the Government launched the Review of Adult Palliative Care and the Palliative Care Action Plan, but the NZACA has been pushing for a palliative care supplement for aged care providers. Associate Minister for Health Nicky Wagner says whether palliative care should in some way be separated from the current aged care payment framework is something providers could raise in the funding model review.

When it comes to seniors policies, National’s proposed cheaper GP visits for lower income New Zealanders will mean 300,000 over-65s will have the cost of seeing their doctor capped at $18. Meanwhile NZ First wants to introduce three annual SuperGold Health Checks with a GP.

National says it will continue to support and invest in the SuperGold Card. They have backed the SuperGold Card public transport concession with $41 million of additional funding so it can provide more than 10 million trips a year.

NZ First intends to maintain New Zealand Superannuation entitlement at 65 years, as a universal, non-contributory, publicly funded pension scheme with no means-testing. Meanwhile National intends to increase the age of entitlement for New Zealand Superannuation from 65 to 67, beginning in 2037.

NZ First wants to raise the minimum residency requirement for full New Zealand Superannuation from 10 to 25 years after age 20 and “end the labyrinth of bureaucratic complexities” caused by reciprocal pension agreements with other countries.

A Labour-Greens-NZ First Coalition

The Labour and Greens already have alignment on their approach to aged care and home support. Their plan for these sectors has been largely informed by their joint inquiry (with Grey Power) into aged care. Their findings were released this month. NZ First has stated their intention to conduct a review into the aged care sector – will the Labour-Greens inquiry suffice?

In terms of the residential aged care funding review, both Jenny Salesa from Labour and Barry Coates from the Greens indicated at the recent NZACA conference that they would support the completion of the review.

One of the 13 recommendations of the inquiry was to “review and investigate updating the aged care standards to set a nationally consistent baseline”.

NZ First also proposes to implement national standards for aged home care that are appropriately monitored and enforced. However, both Home and Community Health Association’s Julie Haggie and NZACA’s Simon Wallace said this is an area that is already well established and doesn’t need changing.

“The sector is already heavily regulated,” says Wallace. “Standards are enforced with regular audits every three to four years.”

Labour and NZ First are in alignment over palliative care with Labour’s health spokesperson Dr David Clark saying Labour will bring palliative care into the core public health service, and “fund it properly whether in a hospice, in aged care, or in the community”.

NZ First has always had strong seniors policies, which will make them an interesting coalition partner regardless of whether they swing towards the right or the left. What will Winston do? And how will it affect older New Zealanders, residential aged care and community support?

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