Clarifying nursing home costs

So you have chosen, or been offered, a bed in a nursing home where you would like to live, but how much do you have to pay?

The amount you’ll pay for an aged care home (a preferred term for a nursing home or an aged care facility) depends on a number of things, including the type of accommodation you need or have chosen.

When it comes to payments there are four areas that can have an impact on the amount you’ll end up paying.

nursing home costs

These are:

The basic daily fee

An accommodation payment

A means-tested fee

Extra or additional services fee

We’ll explain each of these in more detail below.

The basic daily fee

All residents of an aged care home are asked to pay something toward their daily living expenses. This is called the basic daily fee and the things you receive for this are:

  • Your meals
  • Cleaning of the home and your room
  • Your laundry being washed and dried and delivered to your room
  • Heating and cooling
  • Some personal care
  • Assistance with daily living
  • Some medical care and pharmaceutical services

The Australian Government has set the maximum price for the daily fee and this amount is reviewed twice a year, in March and September. From 20th March 2016, the maximum daily fee for a permanent resident of an aged care home was set at 85 percent of the annual single basic Age Pension. So for example the single basic Age Pension is $794.80 per fortnight, and 85 percent of this is $675.58 per fortnight (or $48.25 per day).

Learn more about pension including rates at the Department of Human Services government website.

An accommodation payment

How much you pay for this depends on your assets and your income. If you have less than $46,500 in assets or annual income then you won’t have to pay anything. If you have or receive more than $46,500 in assets and annual income, then you can be asked to pay an accommodation payment but you have some choice about how you pay for this.

Payment amounts can vary from care home to care home and from room to room and are set depending on the accommodation type and features of the home. Your choice of the way you pay the aged care home is decided before you move in but you can have a change of mind in the first 28 days.

You can choose to pay for accommodation in different ways, such as the following options:

Payment option #1
A single payment (which is mostly refundable to you or your estate when you leave the home) called a Refundable Accommodation Payment (RAD)

This is similar to an interest-free loan. The balance of the deposit is guaranteed to be refunded when you leave the home after the amounts which have been used to pay for agreed services have been deducted.

Payment option #2
A rental-style payment calculated on a per day basis (but it is not refundable) called a Daily Accommodation Payment (DAP)

In this option you pay an amount (most often monthly) for your accommodation, which is calculated based on a daily rate. These payments are not refunded when you leave the home.

* The government-set interest rate is called the MPIR (Maximum permissible interest rate). See the current MPIR rates on the dss website

Payment option #3
A combination of a single payment (RAD) and rental-style payments (DAP)

You may choose to pay a smaller RAD and a larger DAP or the other way around. This really depends on your personal circumstances.

Remember though that the way you pay the fees and charges should be agreed upon before you move into an aged care residence, although you still have up to 28 days after admission to change your choice of payment.

Means-tested fees

The means test looks at your financial assets and your income to determine how much you can contribute to the cost of your care. Depending on the overall amount you may be asked to pay an additional means-tested amount (fee) for your care. There is a limit (price cap) on this fee, which at the moment is $25,939.92 pa.

Your contribution may change as your income and assets go up and down depending on the share market, and property prices and bank deposits change. Regardless of those fluctuations you can never be asked to pay more than the capped amount.

Extra service fees

Some aged care homes are specifically designed for people who are able to pay for a higher level of luxury, so if you choose to move into one of these then an extra services fee may apply.

Extra services might include a very plush large room or services such as bedside phone, easy access to the internet, special therapies or special beverages like wine and spirits.

Difficulties paying your accommodation fees

If you are unable to pay for care because of financial difficulties, you can apply for financial hardship assistance from the government. If your application is successful, the government will lower your accommodation costs.

Read more about how the Government can help lower costs at

Changes to fees

If you and a service provider have an agreement on the accommodation price then this amount will remain in place unless you choose to change rooms or facilities. The fee structures mentioned above only apply to people entering aged care since 1 July 2014.

If you entered aged care before this date then your original bond arrangements apply, unless you leave care for more than 28 days or move to a different facility.

Respite care

If you’re looking for a temporary stay in a nursing home then you’ll only need to pay a fee for the days you’ll be staying, just like a hotel. This fee is the same as the basic daily fee paid by permanent residents. For respite in an Extra Services home you may be asked to pay an extra fee to cover the cost of the higher standard of services.

Still have questions?

You can call Centrelink on 13 23 00, read more at My Aged Care website, or contact us on (08) 8232 9498 for more information.

Sources: This article was originally published on Reproduced with permission of DPS Publishing.

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