Ageing at home? New caps mean more to spend on you 👴🧓
With provider admin fees creeping to as much as 60 per cent of a full-service package, rules from January 1 should lead to more funds for cleaning, meals or other services.
Home care providers charging excessive fees to manage the funding meant to pay for goods and services to keep an ageing person at home have been pulled into line.
From January 1, providers of home care packages can no longer charge more than 20 per cent of the package level for care management and no more than 15 per cent of the package level for package management.
There are four levels of home care packages – government funding for older Australians to access support services they need to remain living independently at home.
Current funding for packages comprises: $9179 for level one or someone with basic care needs; $16,147 for level two or low care needs; $35,138 for level three or intermediate care needs; and $53,268 for level four or high care needs.
Approval for a home care package is determined by the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) after an assessment, with referrals to ACAT made by a GP or through My Aged Care.
Once approved for a package, a person (after a possible wait of six months) has to then find a provider to both manage the money and find and roster suitable support workers. These full-service providers would typically charge two sets of administration fees to cover their costs.
On current package rates, these fees should now be no higher than the following:
- Home care package fortnightly care management charges up to $70.42 (level one), $123.87 (level two), $269.56 (level three) and $408.63 (level four).
- Package management fees of $52.82 (level one), $92.90 (level two), $202.17 (level three) and $306.47 (level four).
The government views these caps as a lid on prices, rather than the amount that home care providers should be aiming to charge clients. The prices will go up every year along with other aged care fee increases.
There is the option to self-manage a package. This allows you to find your own support workers, in which case a provider would charge only the package management fee. Providers offering a self-managed option typically charge 13 per cent-15 per cent.
In recent years there have been reports of the combined administration fees creeping as high as 60 per cent of a full-service package, which essentially means less money to be spent on a person’s care.
As it stands, the estimated number of care hours for a level one package is about two a week, three to four hours a week for level two, eight hours a week for level three and about 12 hours a week for a level four.
What this often means is that if people are serious about remaining in their own home to the end, they should be prepared to dip into their own financial resources – beyond the income-tested care fee they may already be asked to pay — rather than rely entirely on government help.
Competition and a requirement for providers to publish their rates on the My Aged Care website has led to costs coming down, but the caps give package recipients some comfort that they aren’t paying excessive amounts.
The flipside is that demand for support at home is high at the same time as a shortage of suitable workers, making it possible for some providers to charge what they like.
One expected consequence of the caps is that providers charging less than the caps could lift their fees up to the cap. Others may choose to lift their hourly rates of service delivery to make up for any potential loss of revenue.
To make it easier for recipients to “shop around”, the government has also announced the removal of any exit fees associated with someone leaving a provider to go elsewhere.
Two other welcome changes are:
- providers can no longer charge for package management in a calendar month (excluding the first month of care) if no services other than care management are provided
- providers can no longer charge separately for third-party services, such as subcontracted staff or equipment purchased elsewhere
While some fees have been reduced or removed, there are still two potential fees that home care package users may need to pay.
The first is a basic care fee set by the government and which varies from $10.49 a day for a low-level package up to $11.71 a day for a high-level package. Not every provider charges or collects this fee for the government.
The fee providers will collect is the income-tested care fee, which is also capped. For a single person with assessable income between $30,204 and $58,318 a year, the income-tested care fee is capped at $6114.83 a year. If you earn more than $58,318 a year, your income-tested care fee is capped at $12,229.70 a year.
While fees are an important part of choosing the right provider – because every dollar saved can effectively buy more care hours at home – there are other key considerations like the support staff the provider employs and allocate to you.
It would be most people’s preference to have just a few new faces coming through their front door on a regular basis rather than someone different each time. Also, are the staff suitably qualified to meet any specific care needs you might have?
It’s necessary to have a care plan in place outlining the support you need, but not every provider fully engages the client in the process.
Key to getting good support is having a good relationship with a care or case manager. Ensure from the start that they will be easy to get in touch with, particularly if you have services in place that you need to change.
Capping the care and management fees is seen as an important step in improving care and boosting accountability and transparency in the home care sector.
If the aim is to have quality home care, then any package funds that are available should be going directly to the care people need.
This article was first published by Third Age Matters director Bina Brown.
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