We all have war stories about those times when ‘budget’ airfares turned out to be $50 more, shipping costs tipped a ‘cheap’ purchase into a ‘spendy’ one, or a public holiday surcharge added five extra bucks to the price of breakfast at the local cafe.
You’ve experienced it yourself, right?
So you know as well as we do that ‘hidden’ costs can quickly add up and burn a hole in your pocket – and they exist in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) too (think: travel fees on top of the hourly rate for a session with your physio).
Over time, these added charges make a big difference to your NDIS plan funding, and none more so than cancellation fees!
At My Plan Manager, we look at thousands of invoices every week and we see how common cancellation fees are. That’s why we wanted to share a few tips to help you keep them to a minimum.
Before you engage a provider’s services, be sure to check their terms and conditions, especially for information about how they handle cancellations.
According to NDIS Guidelines, providers can charge 100 per cent of the service fee for cancellations if they’re not made at least seven clear days prior to the scheduled start time of the agreed support.
But – and it’s a big but – they can only apply a cancellation fee if they can’t fill your appointment with another client or divert their staff member (like a support worker) to another job.
It may sound simple, but an easy way to avoid paying cancellation fees, is to show up to appointments at the scheduled time, and at the agreed meeting place. Of course, that’s easier said than done when unexpected events occur – like illness – or when your support worker cancels their shift and there’s no one available to take you to your appointment.
Where it gets even trickier is when a provider cancels, which the NDIS Guidelines say they can do at any time, without penalty – even at the last minute. So, if a support worker cancels on the day of their shift and, for example, you can’t attend an appointment with your Occupational Therapist (OT) as a result, you still have to pay the OT.
That’s where service agreements become vitally important. Here’s why.
The NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits document says:
Importantly, if a provider changes the terms of their cancellation fees after you sign a service agreement, they either need to get your approval first, or cancel the service agreement and issue a new one. They can’t charge you extra fees without your approval.
It’s also worth knowing that if a service agreement you’ve consented to doesn’t comply with the NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Limits, the agreement is invalid.
Here are a couple of examples of where service agreements do and don’t apply:
#1. A service agreement you consented to stipulates the provider can charge a cancellation fee if you provide less than two days’ notice.
The agreement is acceptable because you’ve negotiated cancellation terms that are better than the terms set out in the NDIS Pricing Arrangements and Price Limits.
#2. A service agreement you consented to stipulates the provider can charge a cancellation fee if you provide less than 10 days’ notice.
The terms of the agreement exceed the NDIA’s maximum notice period of seven days for cancellation. Regardless of what the agreement states, you can’t be charged for a short notice cancellation if you provided seven clear days’ notice.
Cancellation fees are common in the NDIS and knowing your rights and proactively advocating for what you want and need in a provider is vitally important to your NDIS journey. To set expectations, and before consenting to a service agreement, you may want to have a conversation with each provider about their approach to cancellation fees.
To help you to engage the right providers for you, we’ve created this checklist, which outlines what to know and what to ask.
It’s ok to speak up if you believe a provider has charged you incorrectly. This is your consumer right. You may wish to speak with them first to see if they can put things right or, alternatively, you can ask your support coordinator or local area coordinator to do it for you.
If you think a provider hasn’t charged you correctly, be sure to let us know too, and we can cancel the invoice.
We encourage you to sign up to receive SMS notifications from us. These will alert you to who’s claiming from your plan funding and how much, so you can contact us straight away to query invoices as they’re received. If you don’t currently receive SMS notifications from My Plan Manager, you can switch them on at any time by calling us on 1800 861 272 from 8am-6pm (SA time), Monday to Friday.
If you can’t resolve billing disputes with a provider, you can also contact the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission on 1800 035 544 or visit their website at www.ndiscommission.gov.au.