The Minister responsible for the National Disability Insurance Scheme has blamed an uptick of Australia’s aged, autistic and obese people for the “unsustainable” rising costs of the service.
NDIS Minister Linda Reynolds on Monday warned the scheme would outstrip the cost of Medicare in less than two years if it was not brought into line.
“When I came in as Minister, it was very clear to me that one of my major tasks was to not only improve the participants’ experience with the NDIS but also put it on a more sustainable cost trajectory,” Senator Reynolds told 6PR.
“Five months ago we thought the NDIS would overtake the cost of the Medicare in three years, but on the current rates it will surpass Medicare in less than two years.”
Monthly data released by the agency that oversees the NDIS shows costs are running 18 per cent higher than in July last year.
More than 472,000 participants received $2.15 billion in July, three per cent higher than estimated in a July sustainability report.
When asked what was contributing to the ballooning costs, Ms Reynolds said the scheme was “never intended” to serve all Australians who live with a disability.
“This was for those who had the most significant and permanent disability, to provide them with the support so that they can live an independent life as possible … but eligibility now has, in terms of who can come into the scheme, is quite unclear.”
Those aged over 65, including those with dementia, children with autism and early developmental delays, and people with disabilities associated with obesity were singled out as reasons for the rising costs.
“[The NDIS] wasn’t designed to be a scheme for over 65. So people could age into the scheme, but it was expected that they would leave the scheme,” the minister said.
“We’ve got many more young children with autism, and early developmental domains, who despite us providing early childhood intervention, are not leaving the scheme as we thought that they would.
“So there’s a whole range of people trying to come into this scheme, so for example, because they’re obese, and they’ve got disabilities from that health condition.”
It’s not the first time the minister has warned about the rising costs of the scheme. In April it was revealed the National Disability Insurance Agency created a sustainability action task-force in an effort to slow its growth.
Minister Reynolds said she was committed to the vision of the NDIS but insisted state and territory governments should come to the table.
Canberra is on track to fund 60 per cent of the scheme by 2030 – despite the NDIS being launched as a 50-50 split between the states and the federal government. The government is currently renegotiating funding deals with its counterparts.
But Senator Reynolds acknowledged this could not happen without majority support.
“The buck certainly does stop with me in terms of the scheme,” she said.
“But I can’t make any significant change to the scheme without the unanimous support of every state and every territory.
“That’s why I’m working so closely with them … we all want this scheme to survive. The only way we can make sure it does is by working together. That’s the bottom line.”