Six months into a new means testing process for individuals entering aged care, only one in five people are being given correct information about their income and assets.
Getting it wrong means that some people are being asked to pay an amount of money for care that they don’t have, while others who can afford are being heavily subsidised by the government, says Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) chief executive Patrick Reid.
“At a time of emotion and stress when individuals are trying to sort out care and accommodation this adds to an already complex scenario. For providers it means having to double check every means and assets test to make sure the information is correct. They are not really geared up for that. They are not financial advisers,” says Reid.
A further unknown is whether all the incorrect notifications issued to date have been identified.
Since 1 July residents entering an aged care facility are required to pay an accommodation charge in for form of either a Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD), a Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP) or a combination of both. In addition there is a basic daily care fee and a means tested care fee.
A person without means gets government support for the accommodation charge and the care fee as determined by the means and assessment process.
It is possible to ignore the government’s means testing but chances are this won’t work in a person’s favour.
Most providers want the assessment done before admission.
Furthermore, ignoring the government’s means testing will result in the resident simply paying for the full cost of care with daily amounts reaching up to $240 a day, says Later Life Advice founder Brendan Ryan.
“The daily limit is the extent of the payments the government pays the aged care provider, and it can be substantial,” says Ryan.
The latest LASA member survey found that between the introduction of the means testing process on 1 July and the start of October, almost 80 per cent of providers have received information of an incorrect assessment notification.
“The new residential aged care means testing process has been established for almost five months now and yet we are still seeing incorrect or erroneous client notification letters which do not provide the correct calculations for age care recipient’s care and accommodation contributions,” says Reid.
There are also reports of incorrect information being given via the 1800 phone help line.
“When we are dealing with older Australians who require care, this is simply not good enough,” he says.
Reid says the issue appears to be “an intractable structural issue to do with Centrelink’s IT system.
“They have thrown bodies at it but of course human error creeps in and we are still seeing errors come through,” says Reid who has sought urgent meetings with both Minister for Human Services, Senator Marise Payne and Secretary of Human Services, Kathryn Campbell.
Reid says there are a number of issues that have been raised by providers including the information provided on notices and DHS staff providing wrong information.
“We continue to see notification letters which do not provide the full value of the person’s house. The Aged Care Act requires that a person paying a RAD must be left with a minimum level of assets, therefore consumers and providers need to know what the person’s total assets are, including the full value of the house,” says Reid.
With information being provided by 1800 number staff, he says some providers have been told that the capped value of the house is the relevant amount for determining the minimum asset level which is not the case.
Where the means test for non-home owing Centrelink pensioners should take 2-3 days and for self-funded retirees four weeks, the actual waiting time is up to seven weeks.
“We would have thought that given we are five months into the process there shouldn’t be a waiting time at all. It would be a wider concern if it goes on into Christmas and New Year because this is Aged Care season as they call it,” he says.