Understanding Home Care Packages in Australia: Eligibility And Associated Costs
Home Caring > Blog > Understanding Home Care Packages in Australia: Eligibility And Associated Costs

Understanding Home Care Packages in Australia: Eligibility And Associated Costs

We would all like to stay in our own homes for the duration of our lives. After all, these spaces are filled with memories, and they provide us with a comforting, private place in which to maintain our dignity. Unfortunately, age-associated health issues can make it difficult for us to manage at home alone. When this happens, it often means a potentially unwanted move into a care home, funded by the sale of that house we loved.

This can be traumatic and, in many cases, is something that could be avoided with home care. Yet, the imagined high costs of such a service prevent many of us from even considering it as an option. Luckily, government-funded Home Care Packages offer a more affordable way for Australians to stay at home and still receive the care they need. Here, we consider who’s eligible for a Home Care Package, and what associated costs they can expect to pay for the duration of their care.

What is a Home Care Package?

Home Care Packages are a government-funded initiative that aims to make it easier for Australians to access home care services. If an individual is eligible for a Home Care Package, they’ll receive a set amount of government funding annually to afford home care services which may include assistance with transport and housework amongst other things.

Home Care Packages are available across four different levels of funding depending on an individual’s care requirements. The funding for each of these levels goes directly to a home care provider of your choice, who will then work with you to develop a personalised care plan in keeping with your health and needs.

Eligible Uses for Home Care Package Funds

Home Care Packages make home care more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Australians. It’s possible to use Home Care Package funds to access a wide range of care services. The specific services you can access will depend somewhat upon the level of government funding you’re eligible for but may include –

  • Medical care
  • Personal care and grooming
  • Home administration
  • Chores and housekeeping
  • Shopping and food preparation
  • Garden and home maintenance
  • Transportation
  • Social support
  • Etc.

Eligible individuals can also put funds towards more specialised home care, such as –

  • Dementia care
  • Podiatry and physical therapies
  • Mobility aids
  • Home modifications
  • Equipment and assistive technology
  • Etc.

It’s also worth noting that Home Care Packages are flexible and individual. When discussing your care needs, a high-quality service provider may also deem your eligibility for additional services such as anything related directly to your care needs, or deemed as an acceptable use of government funds. These supplements may include –

  • Dementia and cognition supplement
  • Oxygen supplement
  • Enteral feeding supplement
  • Veterans supplement
  • And more

Services Not Covered by Standard Home Care Packages

A reliable service provider will help you to understand exactly what costs your Home Care Package covers. However, certain services are not covered by most standard Home Care Packages, and will instead require additional spending. These include –

  • Home groceries
  • Day-to-day bills
  • Payment for permanent accommodation
  • Medication costs
  • Home modifications unrelated to ageing-related care needs
  • Household appliances and electronics
  • Entertainment expenses
  • Payment for services and items covered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

Home Care Package Eligibility

Home Care Packages are intended for older people who require coordinated services to live independently, or younger people whose care needs aren’t met through other services. Before receiving Home Care Package funding, an individual must undergo an ACAT assessment by My Aged Care, which will assess their eligibility, and also the level of funding applicable to that individual’s care needs.

According to My Aged Care’s stipulations, Home Care Package eligibility is dependent on a few different factors, which include –

  • Age: Individuals should be over 65, or over 50 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people. Exceptions may apply for individuals who are over 50 (or over 45 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people) in cases of low income, or for young people dealing with specific health conditions.
  • Care needs: Care needs also play some part in Home Care Package eligibility, and may include things like a change in what you can do or remember, a recent hospital admission, or a diagnosis with a disability or medical condition.

Your financial situation doesn’t impact your eligibility for Home Care Packages. You may, however, need to complete an income assessment through Services Australia to determine the contributions you’re able to make towards your care.

My Aged Care’s Eligibility Checker

My Aged Care provides an online eligibility checker that can help you determine your eligibility for a Home Care Package. This eligibility checker will ask questions about topics such as –

  • Mobility and independence
  • Personal support networks (friends, family, etc.)
  • Recent health events
  • Emotional/mental wellbeing
  • And more

If you’re unsure of your eligibility or have concerns about completing your assessment form, you can entrust the task to a loved one. A high-quality care provider should also offer a free consultation to help you with assessment paperwork before your acceptance.

Home Care Package Levels

There are four different levels of Home Care Packages, which are allocated depending on an individual’s care needs. These levels range from basic to complex care, and funding amounts vary across each as follows –

 

Package Level Care Need/Level of Support Government Subsidy Amount (as of 1st July 2021)
Level 1 Basic care needs, requiring support with tasks such as day-to-day housework and meal prep. $9026.45 a year
Level 2 Low care needs, requiring support with tasks like personal care, transport, and shopping. $15,877.50 a year
Level 3 Intermediate care needs, requiring support with tasks like medications support, social outings, and home modifications. $34,550.90 a year
Level 4 High care needs, for individuals with Dementia or other conditions, who require increased care hours and specialist support. $52,377.50 a year

 

The Cost of Home Care Packages

If you’re eligible for a Home Care Package, a government subsidy should cover the majority of care that you require. You can ensure this by working with your chosen care provider to develop a care plan that effectively allocates your funds in the right places. However, while Home Care Packages are not means tested, individuals on a higher income may be expected to contribute a certain amount towards those care costs.

The most common out-of-pocket costs that you can expect to pay alongside your Home Care Package will include –

Basic Daily Fee

Basic daily fees vary depending on the level of your Home Care Package, and are charged depending on a percentage of the single basic age pension. These fees change every 6 months per the age pension. As of writing, basic daily fees that individuals can expect to pay include –

  • Home Care Level 1: 5.68% of single daily age pension rate ($11.22 daily)
  • Home Care Level 2: 16.58% of single daily age pension rate ($11.87 daily)
  • Home Care Level 3: 17.05% of single daily age pension rate ($12.20 daily)
  • Home Care Level 4: 17.5% of single daily age pension rate ($12.53 daily)

Not all care providers require you to pay a basic daily fee, though most do. For those who don’t, it’s important to note that you will have less care funding to spend as a result.

Income Tested Fee

As mentioned, some high-earning individuals may need to fill out an income assessment during their eligibility checks. Higher earnings don’t negate your eligibility for a Home Care Package, but they may mean that you’re required to pay an extra contribution called an income-tested fee.

My Aged Care offers a fee estimate calculator that can help you understand how much you can expect to pay based on things like your assets and income. Generally speaking, individuals who are over an income threshold of $62,332.40 a year can expect to pay around $35.95 per day. Meanwhile, individuals earning between $32,331.00 and $62,332.40 a year can expect to pay $17.97 a day.

As of 20 September 2023, the maximum income-tested care fee you can be asked to pay in your lifetime is $78,524.69, after which time you’ll no longer have to pay income-tested fees. Full-time pensioners, or individuals under the income threshold, aren’t required to pay this fee.

Daily Home Care Fee

Some individuals may also have to pay a daily home care fee. This is also income tested and is based on a similar criteria as the income fee. In this instance, however, the means test is based on an individual’s entire assessable income, (net of the minimum pension supplement and clean energy supplement), as well as their ordinary income.

Daily home care fees are then calculated based on rates of 50% of income earned above a certain threshold. Annual caps limit the amount of daily home care fees that individuals must pay, and payments are only necessary for individuals earning more than $32,331 as an individual, or $25,053.60 as a couple.

Additional Fees and Expenses

You can expect to pay additional fees for any services that exceed your Home Care Package funding. Generally speaking, your service provider should help you to develop a care plan that effectively allocates your funding. However, you may decide that you could benefit from additional services that you can pay for privately.

Individuals budgeting for the cost of Home Care Packages should also remember that they’ll continue to face additional expenses, such as medication and living costs, that aren’t covered by funding.

How Often Will I Pay These Fees?

Individuals in receipt of a Home Care Package must pay their daily, rather than just on the days when they receive care. You may be asked to pay these fees on a fortnightly or monthly basis, depending on your situation and care requirements.

What Fees do Care Providers Charge For a Home Care Package?

Home Care Package service providers will charge different fees for different care requirements. A high-quality provider should take pains to allocate government funding in ways that ensure you receive the best care possible without additional expense.

Generally speaking, your funding or personal finances will need to cover costs that include –

  • Care services: Services subsidised by the program to support you at home.
  • Care management: A service to regularly assess your needs and preferences.
  • Package management: Administrative organisational activities required for managing a package, such as monthly statements, budget management, and associated subsidies.

Care service providers are legally obliged to publish their full-price list online. Comparing costs, and choosing the service provider who offers the best care in your area, can help you to secure the best care for less cost.

What Happens to Unspent Home Care Package Funds?

In some instances, your current care needs may not require your full Home Care Package funding. In accordance with your package management fee, your care provider should provide a detailed monthly statement that will help you determine whether this is the case. Your monthly statement should outline –

  • Charges for the management and coordination of your home care package
  • Your contributions
  • Funds spent on the services within your care plan
  • Unspent fund balance

If you have unspent funds, you could discuss with your care provider the option of adding additional helpful services, such as assistance with socialising.

Luckily, you won’t lose unspent funds if you don’t allocate them. Instead, those funds will roll over until a time when you require them for your care.

How to Get a Home Care Package

Whether you pay additional fees or not, the cost of Home Care Packages is small compared with those of private care. As such, everyone who’s eligible, and could benefit from a Home Care Package, shouldn’t hesitate to secure one.

If you’re an Australian resident aged 65 or over or are a younger person living with a health condition or disability whose needs aren’t met by other services, the steps to get a Home Care Package include –

Complete an ACAT Assessment

Once you’ve checked your eligibility for a Home Care Package, you can apply for a free assessment with the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT).

This assessment will take around 1-3 hours, and will evaluate your care needs to determine whether you can access government-subsidised aged care services. You can apply for an ACAT assessment online, or via referral from your doctor or health care professional.

During your ACAT assessment, a member of the Aged Care Assessment Team, typically a nurse or social worker, will interview you. Within this interview, they’ll consider things like your mental and physical health, as well as your ability to manage day-to-day activities.

You can expect to wait anywhere from several weeks to several months to receive a decision after your assessment.

Preparing for Your ACAT Assessment

ACAT assessments can feel overwhelming, but there are some simple things you can do to prepare, such as –

  • Writing a list of current medicines, referrals, or health conditions
  • Having your Medicare card and another form of ID ready
  • Writing down your doctor’s phone number
  • Asking a family member to attend
  • Writing a list of questions in advance

It’s also important to note that an ACAT assessment isn’t designed to trip you up. Ultimately, this assessment is in place to determine whether a Home Care Package is the right option for you, and how those funds could help you receive the right care.

Complete an Assets and Income Assessment

Unless you are a full pensioner, you may need to complete an assets and income assessment with Services Australia. This will determine whether you need to pay income-tested care fees. Within this, you may need to include information based on your income, any current government support, existing assets, and interest earned.

Await Your Assessment Outcome

As mentioned, it can take several weeks to several months to know the outcome of an ACAT assessment, depending on things like your location or level of care. This is because Home Care Packages are assigned according to a priority system.

If you are not eligible for a Home Care Package, your assessment results should include information about alternative care options.

If you are eligible for a Home Care Package, you will receive information regarding the level of Home Care Package you can receive, as well as any additional fees you’ll need to contribute.

In some locations, there is a long wait for Home Care Packages, which means that you might not receive your package right away. In this instance the amount of time you have to wait from your approval letter will depend on the level of your package as follows –

  • Level 1: Less than a month
  • Level 2: 3-6 months
  • Level 3: 9-12 months
  • Level 4: 6-9 months

If you disagree with the care level allocated to you, it’s your right to appeal the decision using the assessor’s contact details as provided.

How to Choose A Home Care Package Provider

Once your Home Care Package is allocated to you, it’s time to choose a Home Care Package provider. Being able to choose your own provider is a significant benefit of a Home Care Package, and is largely what sets this scheme apart from other care-based funding programs. That’s because choosing the right care provider, with a price list that works with your funding, can help to ensure that you receive the right care.

What do Home Care Package Providers do?

The government pays your Home Care Package funds directly to a Home Care Package provider, who should work with you to decide on and organise your care plan. Your care package provider should take steps to ensure that your care plan provides you the care you need, within your allocated budget. A care package provider should also work to adjust their services within your budget if your care needs change.

Care package providers should forward a monthly statement that outlines the services they’ve delivered, the costs of those services, any administrative costs, and unspent funding.

Comparing Home Care Package Providers

It can be difficult to choose between Home Care Package providers. Whether you’re looking for your first Home Care Package provider, or you’re looking to switch providers for an existing package, comparisons to consider may include –

  • Availability: When are they available to provide the services you need?
  • Cost: Are their care costs and administrative fees within your budget?
  • Services: Do they deliver all of the services you need, such as specialist equipment, therapies, etc?
  • Quality: Do they meet the Aged Care Quality Standards for Australia? Do they offer personalised, flexible care plans to meet your needs?

Home Caring Can Handle Your Home Care Package

Here at Home Caring, we have a great deal of experience in delivering personalised, specialist Home Care Packages. We offer free consultations for anyone currently in the process of applying for government funding. From the moment you choose us as your provider, we’ll also get to work developing a unique care plan that will always consider you as an individual. And, that’s not the only benefit you’ll enjoy when you seek care from the Home Caring team. By choosing us as your provider, you can also benefit from –

  • Trustworthy, high-quality allocated carers
  • Care plan management that ensures package value
  • Person-centred care models
  • Flexible care teams
  • Multilingual team members
  • Expertise in dementia care, rehabilitation, palliative care, etc.
  • And much, much more

Our Home Care Package Services

Our high-quality, personalised Home Care Package plans ensure that you always get the best value care possible. Our wide range of Home Care Package services include –

Hassle-Free Home Care Packages With Home Caring

Home Care Packages have made a huge difference to the affordability of home care for as many as 216,000 Australians. Despite these benefits, applying for a Home Care Package can feel daunting.

You can overcome that setback by taking the time to understand your eligibility for the program. It can also be a huge help to budget for any associated costs that you might need to contribute to your plan. Once you understand this important information, you’ll be in a far better position to understand the care you could access, and the best ways to make funding work for you.

Whether you’re just starting on your Home Care Package journey, or are currently for a trustworthy provider, our Home Caring team have the expertise to help you secure a Home Care Package at last. Simply get in touch online or at 1300 694 195 for a free consultation to discuss your options today!

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