How do I maximise the value of my home care package?

It’s easy to be confused about government-subsidised in-home care. At times there seems to be too little information and too many unanswered questions:

  • How much do in-home care or aged care services cost?
  • Will I be locked into a contract?
  • Does every provider charge the same price?
  • What if I still earn income?
  • How much in-home care does the government pay for?
  • How much do I have to pay?

Other times there seems to be too much information which can be very overwhelming. It is not uncommon the hear that people have received calls from My Aged Care workers as well as other service providers, which often causes confusion. Many elderly people do not really know who they are talking to but, know that they have ‘spoken’ to someone who has given them information and asked them to do something. These calls are intrusive, confusing and sometimes the information provided is conflicting and contradictory.

365 Care wants to cut through the confusion and provide accurate information about home care options available across Western Sydney, that will help you decide the best care options for yourself.

Our goal is to help you understand by providing the facts first:

  • What are your options for home care services across Western Sydney?
  • What in-home care subsidies are you able to get from the government?
  • What exactly can I use my funding for?

That way, you can make an informed choice. Everyone’s situation is different, therefore not all care packages are the same. It is important to plan for your needs and find the best care provider for your own situation and really understand how your care package works.

How the government home care packages work?

The government offers subsidies to qualified people in need of in-home care, greatly reducing the cost out of pocket expenses for these services. How much the government contributes to your in-home care package increases yearly and depends on the level of care you require.

Home care packages are divided into 4 levels. Levels 1 being the lowest for people with lower needs scaled through to Level 4 for people who have far greater needs. Because this is considered a subsidy and not income, pensions are not affected.

Currently, the Government subsidy is around:

Level 1: $8,750
Level 2: $15,250
Level 3: $33,500
Level 4: $50,750

Prices of care packages do vary by provider. If you select a provider offering a care package under these amounts, the government subsidy might cover all the costs.

How Much Am I Required to Contribute?

By law, some of your in-home care fees may come out of your pocket. These include:

1. Basic Daily Fee (everyone)
2. Income-Tested Care Fee (some recipients)

What Is the Daily Basic Fee?

Before 30th of June 2019, that fee was capped at 17.5%of the single person rate of the basic age pension for all four in home care levels. That rate is currently $843.60 per fortnight. 17.5% of $843.60 is $147.56 per fortnight.

Most providers now are not charging this fee.

Why Do I Need to Be Income Tested?

People who still earn income may be asked to pay an extra, income-tested fee. The rationale is that some people can afford to make a bigger financial contribution to their care.

The fee varies based on income and is means tested. Centrelink determines the fee and you need to submit paperwork to be assessed. MyAgedCare.gov offers an in-home care fee estimator to calculate your likely income-tested fee.

How Do I Get My Income Assessed?

Return the Aged Care Fees Income Assessment Form to DHS or (if applicable) DVA and you will receive an official letter specifying your income tested daily fee. A little tip: If you disagree with the income assessment, you can appeal in writing. Follow appeal instructions included on the letter if you believe your circumstances merit a lower out-of-pocket fee.

If you have already received income-tested subsidies recently, including age pensions, disability support pensions, or service pensions, no further income testing may be required.

Is Additional Funding Available?

Ask your provider about additional funding support for things such as oxygen or dementia care. Your provider may be able to apply on your behalf for additional subsidies provided through different funding channels.

Are All Providers Equal?

No! Every provider is different! The quality of care and fees can vary wildly. Recent changes require care providers to be more upfront about costs. Now, all charged fees must be rolled into a single hourly service fee. This resulted in many providers having to increase their hourly fees dramatically as they are now no longer permitted to charge administration fees.

For the consumer, this level or transparency has been welcomed. It is now far easier to determine the costs for services knowing you will not be hit with and ‘hidden extras’. However, it still makes the task of picking an in-home care provider daunting. Vet potential providers carefully to determine which one is the right fit specifically for your circumstances and ask lots of questions. Good providers will be able to answer questions easily and accurately.

What Are Some of the Commonly Asked Questions?

1. Are provider fees published and easy to find?
Are there any hidden ‘extras’? Care providers are required by law to make fees public and easy to find. 365 Care pricing can be found here. All fees are published on the My Aged Care website

2. Have fees increased or decreased since the laws changed?
Some providers had been charging lower hourly rates, but much higher administration fees, making it hard to compare apples with apples. Looking closely at current and previous fees could provide a valuable glimpse into a provider’s business practices and system efficiencies including 365 Care’s.

3. Are they easy to reach and schedule services with?
Requiring multiple calls to get anything done could be a red flag for inefficiency, poor communication and/or inexperienced staff, ultimately leading to higher charges.

4. Are bills and invoices easy to understand and error-free?
Invoicing should be accurate, easy to understand and fully transparent, if not, make sure you question the services and fees that have been invoiced.

5. Is the provider too ‘keen’ to sign you up to an agreement?
You are required to have an agreement with a provider but, can use multiple providers at any one time. Take your time with to select the best provider(s), based on your own needs. A good provider will take the time to really assess your needs and prepare a good thorough care plan specifically suited to your needs.

6. If you sign a contract, what are the exit clauses?
You should not be forced into signing a contract for service, where you are unable to exit if you are unhappy with the service provided or the services are not available. Your care needs will change over time therefore, your services will need to also change over time. Key issues to consider are the exit fees and notice to move fees. More and more providers are charging no exits fees, but there are still some providers who are charging up to $1000 to leave, so make sure you ask about this upfront.

Remember, the services provided are based on your needs at any one time and should be reviewed from time to time. Being locked into a contract that cannot be altered, does not serve your needs properly.

7. Do I have the same care worker all the time?
In most cases, a good provider will aim roster the same care worker to the same client, within reason. A rotating cast of thousands in and out of your home is a red flag for inefficiencies and not a focus on client satisfaction. Relationships that are built on trust are crucial for in-home care services, and you should be comfortable with the people working in your home.

Care work is demanding, so check how many hours care workers can be rostered for in any one week. Again, this is a good insight into the organisation and how well they take care of their employees. Rostering a care worker who has worked excessive hours each week is not good practice. Industry best practice often involves a small team of care workers rostered to deliver care services for any one client. This allows a provider to manage changing client needs and staff availability more easily. Again, ask about this during the selection process.

Remember, it is your right to choose your care provider and have the freedom and flexibility to alter the kinds of services you receive as your needs change over time. Moves to create a more transparent fee system has simplified previously complicated charging systems, so if you are unsure about any of the fees or services you are receiving, make sure you speak up so, you can maximise the benefit of your in-home care package.

For more information contact us on: 1300 365 248
www.365care.com.au