News | 28 June 2019

Putting a price tag on good information

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A fluoro yellow price sticker. It reads Was priceless (crossed out). Reduced. Now $1.05

Last week the new Minister for the NDIS Stuart Robert and the National Disability Insurance Agency released a number of changes to the NDIS price guide.

The biggest changes include:

  • An increase to the loadings for providers delivering services in remote and very remote areas. The loadings are the additional amount providers receive above and beyond standard NDIS prices to cover delivering in these areas. The remote loading will increase to 40 per cent (up from 20 per cent) and the very remote loading to 50 per cent (up from 25 per cent).
  • Provider travel claiming has increased from the current cap of 20 minutes to 30 minutes within city areas, and from 45 minutes up to 60 minutes in regional areas.
  • Two levels of prices for therapy assistants.
  • A new hourly rate for “non-face-to-face care activities conducted on behalf of the participant”.
  • Support coordinators will now be able to claim the increased travel time, as well as claim for non-face-to-face coordination activities.
  • Prices will be increased to cover changes to CPI (consumer price index) and the decisions of the Fair Work Commission for workers.

And for the very first time since the NDIS was launched six years ago, the price guide is now national – one guide to rule them all.

All these changes took effect from July 1.

And in just a week the NDIA have already released a couple of different versions of the guide correcting mistakes and providing more information – for example, there are some new case studies in the latest version. So make sure you check and get the latest version.

So what does this all mean for participants?

That’s a very good question – we are glad you asked.

And that was EXACTLY the question we asked the NDIA the second the guide hit the NDIS website.

Because once again there was not any information released that addressed the questions NDIS participants and their families were most likely to ask. There were no fact sheets, info sheets, Q&A’s that covered things people really needed to know.

So … let’s deal with the straightforward stuff.

First – funding in participant plans will automatically be increased to cover indexation and the increase in prices to therapy, attendant care and community participation that were all announced back in March.

This is what has happened in the past, and it will happen again. Just remember that sometimes it takes a while for this to happen so it’s probably a good idea to keep an eye on things in the portal to make sure.

But the announcement was silent on what would happen to participant plans in remote and very remote areas. So we asked – and the Minister’s office confirmed that participants who use services in remote and very remote areas will also have their plans automatically increased to cover the additional loadings. Again good news.

(If you are not sure if this covers you the definitions are included in the Price Guide. See the link at the bottom of this page)

We also had some questions about travel – there were a few things that weren’t exactly clear. Turns out we were not the only ones and we have heard that things should be clarified for everyone soon. So stay tuned.

We also wanted to know more about the introduction of a new hourly rate for non face-to-face support. What exactly was covered and what wasn’t?

Checking the price guide didn’t provide much help. There was a long list of things that providers were not allowed to bill for – but only one example of something that they were.

“ time spent on non-face to face activities that assist the participant – for example, writing reports for co-workers and other providers about the client’s progress with skill development – could be charged against this support item”.

The guide goes on to say other things like time spent on admin – for example developing service agreements, entering client details into the system, processing of NDIS payment claims for all clients – cannot be charged to participants.

The guide says participants can “pre-authorise” these activities – presumably in their service agreements.

Given that there is significant potential for this to burn through a participant’s funds, we would have hoped that more information was provided to participants so they can enter into negotiations and service agreements knowing EXACTLY what to expect – what was allowed and what was not.

Again we have asked for more information – and we are still waiting. Again stay tuned.

Other things to keep an eye on …

The NDIA has consistently said that Plan Managers can’t pay registered providers above the price guide maximum rates. So far so good.

But this new price guide appears to go a step further, stating that any unregistered providers used by Plan Managed participants can’t charge gaps for participants to pay out of their own pocket.

We wonder how that will really work in practice – for example if a plan manager is just processing an invoice provided by a participant how will they ever know a participant even paid a gap themselves?

And more to the point – is it really any of their business?

Plan management is often used by people who are thinking about self management but who just don’t feel quite ready to take the leap. Or for people who want to direct their supports and use unregistered providers but don’t want to deal with the paperwork that comes with self management.

This week’s change could result in more people turning away from plan management.

The language used by the NDIA is also interesting. Plan managers are described as “purchasing supports on behalf of participants”. But they aren’t – the participant is organising and purchasing the supports. The plan manager is making sure the bills are correct and get paid.

Another one to keep a watch on.

We’re also keen to hear from people about the changes to cancellation fees.

A short notice cancellation is now defined as:

  • less than 2 clear business days’ notice for a support that is less than 8 hours continuous duration and worth less than $1000; and
  • less than 5 clear business days’ notice for any other support.

We wonder how this one will work in the real world. People get sick, kids get sick, life gets in the way. We’d love to hear from people about how you think that change will work where you live.

The final one we would like to hear from people about is the new arrangements for therapy assistants. There are now two levels of therapy assistant. And both must now be covered by the professional indemnity insurance of the supervising therapist – or the therapist’s employer.

That seems to suggest that independent therapy assistants who are working to a plan developed by a therapist and being supervised by a therapist but who are NOT employed by that therapist or their employer cannot be used.

Given how many people and families are using assistants to help stretch their therapy budget again we wonder how this change is going to work on the ground.

In short …

Good information. You just can’t put a price on it.

All of these changes are a big deal for participants. The changes to travel, the billing of non face-to-face support, the changes to therapy assistants will all have an impact.

People with disability and their families need really good clear information about these changes so they know what to expect when they are negotiating with providers. They need to know what is and is not allowed – and what it means for them.

NDIS participants can only be the effective consumers the NDIS expects and assumes they are IF they have good information at their fingertips. Otherwise the power dynamic doesn’t change. And never will.

The NDIA has a responsibility to provide that information in simple clear ways that everyone can understand. And whenever they make ANY change they need to let participants know what it means for them.

It’s a bit like that old credit card ad.

The price of one hour of Assistance With Self-Care Activities – Standard – Weekday Daytime – $52.85

But getting good clear information that helps you navigate this complex scheme – priceless.


So to help you with where to go for more information:

For our friends in WA there is some additional information about arrangements in your state.

And you can find the updated information here.

The original information can be found in the link to the latest version of the new 2019/20 price guide here.


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