Changes to residential aged care fees and charges for same-sex couples from 1 July 2009
From 1 July 2009 people in same-sex relationships, and their dependent children, have access to the same entitlements as other Australian families in respect of health and ageing programs. The fact sheet below outlines how the implementation of same-sex law reforms effect residential aged care fees and charges for same-sex couples.
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From 1 July 2009, members of same-sex couples are treated in the same way as members of opposite-sex couples in the income and assets tests for entry to permanent residential aged care. For the first time members of same-sex couples are taken to have 50% of the total value of the couple’s income and assets when determining aged care fees and charges.
A person who has a same-sex partner was treated as a single person, prior to 1 July 2009, under the aged care income and assets tests. His or her partner’s income and assets were disregarded.
Further information about the Australian Government’s same-sex law reforms can be found on the Attorney-General’s Department website at www.ag.gov.au/samesexreform.
Home exemptionsPreviously, a person who was living with a same-sex partner (but solely owned the home) had the value of the home included in his or her aged care assets assessment because he or she was treated as a single person, unless other exemptions applied. From 1 July 2009, the value of the couple’s home is excluded from the assets assessment if the person’s partner still resides there.
Accommodation bonds and accommodation chargesAged care residents make a contribution, based on their means, towards their daily living costs and accommodation. Residents do this through the payment of daily fees, which are based on their level of income, and, if they have sufficient assets, an accommodation bond or an accommodation charge. Residents cannot be asked to pay an accommodation payment if the value of their assets is below a specified amount (currently $36,000).
The accommodation payment that residents requiring low level care, or high level care on an extra service basis, may be asked to pay is an accommodation bond. Residents receiving high level care may generally be asked to pay a daily accommodation charge.
The aged care assets test determines whether a person is eligible to pay an accommodation bond or accommodation charge, and, if so, the maximum amount of bond or charge that is payable. From 1 July 2009, some members of same-sex couples entering care will pay lower accommodation bonds or charges and others will pay higher accommodation bonds or accommodation charges, depending on the particular financial arrangements of each couple. Accommodation payments for residents who entered care before 1 July 2009 will not change.
Previously, a member of a same-sex couple who had individual assets less than $36,000 was not eligible to pay an accommodation bond or accommodation charge because he or she was treated as a single person and the partner’s assets were disregarded. From 1 July 2009, a member of a same-sex couple entering permanent residential aged care may be eligible to pay an accommodation bond or an accommodation charge because the partner’s assets are included and the combined total amount of assets is divided in half. Conversely, a member of a same-sex couple who enters care from 1 July 2009 is not eligible to pay an accommodation bond or charge if 50% of the total value of the couple’s assets is less than $36,000.
It is recommended that people entering residential aged care seek information in relation to the payment of accommodation costs. The Financial Information Service, which is available through Centrelink, provides comprehensive information about the rules regarding aged care fees and charges and their interaction with the pension or superannuation. This service is free and available to anyone and appointments can be made by calling Centrelink on 13 23 00.
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Income Tested FeesThe aged care income test determines whether a person is eligible to pay an income tested fee and, if so, the amount of fee that is payable. Income tested fees for some pre-1 July 2009 residents and some residents who entered care from 1 July 2009 will be affected by the changes. From 1 July 2009, some members of same-sex couples will pay a higher income tested fee and others pay a lower income tested fee, depending on the financial arrangements of each couple and, in particular, the amount of income generated by each partner.
Previously, the amount of income received by the partner of a person in a same-sex couple was not taken into consideration when calculating his or her income tested fee. From 1 July 2009, eligibility to pay an income tested fee includes consideration of his or her partner’s income. Members of same-sex couples are now taken to have 50% of the total value of the couple’s assessed income.
Financial Hardship AssistanceThere are provisions under the Aged Care Act 1997 to assist residents who face genuine financial hardship in paying their aged care costs due to their special circumstances. For further information about financial hardship assistance, please call the Department of Health and Ageing’s Aged Care Information Line on 1800 500 853.
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