As Australians live longer and longer, there is an increasing likelihood that they will need some kind of health care assistance in their lifetime.

This could include help around the house, independent living with moderate care, or high level residential nursing care. At first glance, these options can seem very expensive. However, government funding is available for many individuals, no matter their financial circumstances. An assessment by the Department of Human Services (DHS) is necessary for accessing government subsidies. It is therefore very important to plan ahead and structure assets and income in a way that results in a favourable assessment.

Consider financial position

Before submitting any assessments, a good place to start is considering how to optimise your financial position. Often we see clients who have already sold assets or made incorrect declarations before their options have been properly assessed. By sending in an assessment prematurely, people are committed to an outcome that may be less beneficial.

Keep up to date

Legislation for aged care is constantly evolving, resulting in grandfathering for those already receiving help. However this presents a new set of rules for those trying to access the same benefits. For example, in January 2015, changes were made to the way superannuation is assessed for both the Age Pension and aged care fees, so any withdrawal from super could be less favourable for government funding. In January 2016 the family home lost rental income exemptions as well as the indefinite exemption from aged care assessment. These changes have had a considerable impact on how people should consider what to do with the home and in turn how the Assets and Income Assessment should be completed.

Plan ahead

Those that plan ahead will be well-placed to access the best and most appropriate care that doesn’t break the bank for health care assistance. They may even be lucky enough to find themselves in a position to access an Age Pension or Seniors Health Care Card that they were previously not entitled to. Remember, while aged care can be a daunting and emotional experience, it’s designed to be affordable for everyone.

Get advice

Our biggest tip is to get advice early. It can be a complicated area, and there will almost certainly be opportunities or pitfalls that take people by surprise. Specialist help can help achieve the best possible result for all but not if it is sought too late.

This article was authored by Luke Robson from HLB Mann Judd Brisbane.