Financial complexity!

My wife entered full-time care in January 2019. Since then I had expected us both to receive the full Aged Pension straight away, as I had used the services of an excellent specialist Financial Planner to help me through the process.

So that I could keep a watchful eye, right from the start, I did not sign the Care home’s ‘Authority to automatically deduct’ the monthly fees from a bank account. I chose to make the payment by bank transfer after I reviewed each monthly account. I also watched to see if the Aged Pension amount had been updated to our bank account. Nothing changed but I did wait, thinking that these matters sometimes take a while. That patient waiting was not a good move. I kept checking our Bank records online and it revealed things had not changed as expected. Eventually I knew I had to make a move!

After that wait of three months or so and our Aged pensions had still not been increased to the full rate, I double-checked our Centrelink records online. I discovered there were several critically wrong Asset amounts that did not accord with the figures supplied by my advisor! It appeared that not all the required amounts had been entered by Centrelink from the records provided, especially the RAD some of which was shown as being still in the bank, as well as having been paid to the Care home!

I decided to make an appointment at the local Centrelink office to get their records corrected but discovered you can’t make an appointment: “Just get here before the doors open”! That was good advice. It worked and was made smoother by an efficient and friendly Centrelink person, but it still involved a whole morning, and a second visit to fetch some other required paperwork. Correcting their figures was made easier by me taking as many relevant documents as I could think of, including bank statements. The process of correcting the records resulted in an immediate payment of the full pension, and the retrospective amount was in the bank in a few days. Full marks, Centrelink!

There remained one item on my wife’s Care home monthly account that puzzled me: “Means-tested Care Fees” (MTCF) of $2.43 per day. That’s $887 for a year. Apparently, as part of the review, Centrelink advises the Department of Human Services (DHS) who then make a calculation, independent of Centrelink but based on their figures, but because the Centrelink figures had been previously wrong, so was the MTCF! Centrelink could not help with it (!) but did supply me with the DHS phone number (1800 227 475). I rang early in the morning to avoid a long wait (always a good move). I had an excellent response from a friendly and efficient person, who after checking my identity, accessed the newly adjusted Centrelink figures and was able to make all the required changes over the phone. You can read more on MTCF and Aged care homes (and  other topics) at

The result of my DHS phone call was a reduction of MTC fee to a new annual amount of $587, a welcome saving of $300 a year. The DHS person assured me they will now notify my wife’s Aged Care home who will then adjust their monthly account and eventually refund our over-payment. The DHS only reviews and adjusts MTCF quarterly so, if you are likely to be affected, it would be a good idea to check the amount you are paying and ask for a review now, before it becomes a long-standing error. Note: The formula used to calculate the Means Tested Care Fee is extremely complex not easily accomplished by a recipient or a carer like me. Search the internet to see what I mean!

But…. how bizarre that there needs to be two government departments involved, when the DHS uses the figures held by Centrelink anyway! And what a complex formula! I understand that it is related to Medicare, but the administrative cost and messy procedure must exceed the value by far. Surely this fee could be simplified and applied by Centrelink?

Now that both DHS and Centrelink are both ‘on the same page’ and the system has been stabilised with our corrected figures, I am hopeful that I need take no further action unless there is some unexpected financial change. In that case, I can make adjustments myself by logging online at am so pleased to have sufficient computer skills to do this. If you can’t cope with doing that, let me know. Or enlist the aid of a young relative or trusted friend to show you how to use your computer or iPad to adjust your records and learn how to access all the other online facilities available to us ‘elders’!

Maybe an appropriate start is for you to check the items billed in your Aged care facility monthly account?