A CPSA News reader wrote in to respond to an article in which Home Care Package (HCP) fees were discussed:
“I am the recipient of a home care package and read your article about fees and charges with interest. I just wanted to point out that the basic daily fees is optional for the recipients of care. It took several weeks of research to finally find a mention that it was optional… buried on page page 48 of the Home Care Packages Program Manual for Care Recipients.”
According to myagedcare.gov.au, HCP providers can charge every client a Basic Daily Care Fee of between $10 and $12 a day. This Basic Daily Care Fee is payable every day of the week, even if you don’t receive a service every day of the week. You can also be asked to pay it, if you are on a full-rate pension and don’t have to pay income-tested fees.
This Basic Daily Care Fee being optional sounds great. It also sounds too good to be true.
Is the Basic Daily Fee optional?
On page 48, the Home Care Packages Program Manual for Care Recipients says this:
“If you agree to pay a basic daily fee, this amount is added to your overall package funding available, to spend on your care and services. If you are asked to pay a basic daily fee but do not agree to it, this may reduce the amount of services provided to you.”
This is what myagedcare.gov.au says about the Basic Daily Care Fee:
“Providers can ask you to pay a basic daily fee, but not all of them do.”
In other words, if they ask, you must pay.
So, it’s up to providers to decide whether they “ask” you to pay the Basic Daily Care Fee. The Basic Daily Care Fee is their option, not yours. If they do ask you, you must pay if you want the service. The manual uses the words “agree to pay”, but this is misleading because it implies you’ve got a choice when you don’t.
The myagedcare.gov.au website goes on to say:
“The basic daily fee is added to the government subsidy to increase the funds available to you in your Home Care Package budget. If your provider does not charge this fee, you will have less funds available in your budget to pay for your care. So, you should consider your care needs when choosing a provider to decide if paying the basic daily fee is better for you.”
Again, the language used is misleading. What the website really does is telling you that paying a basic daily fee is actually good for you, even though the government’s subsidy of HCP services is meant to cover the cost of services provided to you.
But what the myagedcare.gov.au website does not say is that you can choose any HCP provider and dictate to them whether or not you will pay the Basic Daily Care Fee.
Neither does page 48 of the Home Care Packages Program Manual for Care Recipients. It tries to paper over the quite brutal nature of the Basic Daily Care Fee by saying that if you don’t pay it “this may reduce the amount of services provided to you”. Not so. A provider who requires you to pay it, will insist you pay it. They will “reduce the amount of services provided to you” alright: they will reduce it to nil.
It’s just that some HCP providers charge the Basic Daily Care Fee and some don’t. Your option is to go with one or the other.
Who charges the Basic Daily Care Fee and who doesn’t?
It’s for you to find out which provider does charge the Basic Daily Care Fee and which provider doesn’t.
It’s important to realise that many providers waive the Basic Daily Care Fee because it suits them first and foremost. If they charge it, it adds 365 times at least $10 to your annual care bill. Since they can legally waive the fee, many providers do so as they compete against other providers who also have the right to waive the fee. They’re competing for your business.
Overall, people on HCPs don’t spend all of their package. They save up for big items. They save up simply because there might be big items in the future. In other words, there’s generally no sense for an HCP provider to force you to pay a Basic Daily Care Fee. It just gets added to the balance in your HCP account where generally the provider can’t touch it.
The myagedcare.gov.au website says that its search facility will yield search results with information about whether individual providers charge a Basic Daily Care Fee.
Except it doesn’t, so the only way to find out which provider does and which provider doesn’t charge the Basic Daily Care Fee is to contact individual providers and ask them this very important question: do you charge a Basic Daily Care Fee?
Make sure you do before signing up. And if you are already with a provider and this provider does charge the Basic Daily Care Fee, you may consider changing to a provider who doesn’t.