If you have ever had to navigate aged care for yourself or a loved one you know what a nightmare it can be. At the same time as you are trying to organise an aged care assessment and look at different facilities you are having forms thrust at you asking about every aspect of your financial affairs - right down to the value of your curtains!
It probably comes as no surprise when I tell you that thousands and thousands of aged care means assessments are completed unnecessarily every year. Most people don't know if they should complete it or not, and many assume that it is compulsory. Further thousands are completed incorrectly, as the forms are both long and confusing.
Last year, the Aged Care Forms Taskforce was established, and one of its first tasks was to simplify the means-testing arrangements for aged care. My good friend and co-author, Rachel Lane, is part of that taskforce - along with representatives from key government departments, aged care providers and consumer groups.
The taskforce took to the forms with a razor, removing more than half of the questions from the residential aged care means test form and more than a quarter from the home care form. They also reduced the amount of supplementary information to read by close to 70 per cent.
So there are now three forms: one for home care; and a choice of two for people entering residential aged care. The streamlined standard residential aged care form is expected to benefit around 50,000 people accessing aged care every year.
And there's a new, even shorter form - for people who receive a means tested Centrelink or DVA payment and own their own home - which enables pensioners to simply give the information that Centrelink/DVA don't already have, that is, the details of their home. This form is expected to help 20,000 people.
Best of all, people who receive a means-tested pension and don't own a home won't have to complete any forms at all. When they enter care, the Department will use the information already on file about their assets and income to work out their means-tested fees.
For those who should fill in the means testing forms - those who will pay less as a result - easier paperwork is welcome news. But it is important to remember that you do not have to complete the forms. It's not quite correct that if you don't complete the forms you won't be eligible for funding towards your cost of care: if you choose not to disclose your means, you will pay the market price for your accommodation and the top "means-tested care fee", based on your cost of care, but you will still be eligible for the annual and lifetime caps on costs of care.
If you're not sure whether to fill in one of the forms, or which one to use - or if you are someone who assists people with these forms, like an accountant, financial adviser or placement consultant - there will be a free webinar on 24 June from 1-2pm (AEST), which will take you through the forms step by step.
The link to the webinar is link http://www.wolterskluwer.cch.com.au/aged-care-means-assessment/ - just scroll to the bottom.
During the webinar you will also have an opportunity to ask questions of Aged Care Guru Rachel Lane, and Vanessa Beck, National Manager of Aged Care Programmes Branch, Department of Human Services.