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Mid-cost assistive technology

We explore the details of the change to the upper limit of mid cost AT from $5000 to $15000.

By Lisa Duffy

Updated 15 Apr 20247 Apr 2022
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On March 1st this year, Minister for the NDIS Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds and the NDIA  announced via media release an increase in the upper limit for automatic approval of mid-cost Assistive Technology (AT) purchases. The previous upper limit of $5000 has now been increased to $15000.

Let’s dive into the details of what this change will mean for participants and providers.

Low, Mid, and High Cost AT

Before we dive into the new mid-cost AT operational guideline, let’s go over the three levels of AT, since the changes announced in early March the current levels are:

  • Low cost assistive technology: under $1,500 per item
  • Mid cost assistive technology: between $1,500 and $15,000 per item
  • High cost assistive technology: over $15,000 per item

Each level of AT have different assessment and evidence requirements, as illustrated below, quoted directly from the Assistive Technology Operational Guidelines:

UNDERSTAND ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY EVIDENCE, ADVICE, ASSESSMENTS, AND QUOTES

Low-cost Assistive Technology
Cost per item: under $1500
What you need: No written evidence needed.
Necessary before you buy: Low risk – get advice from an AT advisor. High risk – get written advice form an AT advisor.
Quote needed: No
Funded from: Core budget

Mid-cost Assistive Technology
Cost per item: $1,500 - $15,000
What you need: Written evidence from an AT advisor
Necessary before you buy: Written advice from an AT advisor.
Quote needed: No
Funded from: Capital budget

High-cost Assistive Technology
Cost per item: Over $15000
What you need: Assessment from an AT assessor.
Necessary before you buy: Assessment from an AT assessor.
Quote needed: Yes
Funded from: Capital budget

Let’s talk Mid-Cost AT

Despite an increase to the upper limit of funding in mid-cost AT, there are still some minimum standards for requests for mid-cost AT.

Before the support can be funded, the NDIS participant must have evidence from an AT advisor (in writing) that the item:

  • is something the participant needs,
  • will assist the participant with their disability support needs,
  • is the most economical way for the participant to achieve their NDIS goals,

The AT advisor must alost give an idea of the cost of the item (however a formal quote is not required). This written evidence can be in the form of an email, letter, or report.

Ideally, this written evidence will also include:

  • information about the lived experience of the participant
  • the participant’s experience of using or testing the item, or a similar item
  • information from peer support groups or peak bodies that shows the NDIA that the item is right for the participant

 

Once the requested mid cost AT item is approved and the funding is available in the Capital budget, the participant must get written advice from an assistive technology advisor to help choose a specific item (in the category that has been approved) that is safe and right for them. It’s important to keep a copy of the advice: the participant might be asked for this evidence at a later date.

Who is an AT Advisor?

Assistive technology advisors can be:

  • Allied health practitioners. For example audiologists, occupational therapists, orthoptists, orthotists/prosthetists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, speech pathologists
  • assistive technology mentors, who have a recognised qualification in assistive technology advice
  • orientation and mobility specialists for the vision sector
  • continence nurses
  • rehabilitation engineers

 

AT Advisors help NDIS participants to:

  • learn what assistive technology is available and choose the best options for their needs
  • make sure the assistive technology is safe for them
  • set up their assistive technology
  • use their assistive technology

Is there a potential downside to the mid cost AT changes?

Following the announcement, there have been mixed opinions about the potential impacts of the changes to NDIS participants.

One potential positive outcome is that participants will have increased access to much needed AT within a much faster time frame, as there is not the requirement to have a formal allied health assessment and. There is widespread ‘on the ground’ knowledge that the waiting lists and budgets required for allied health assessments and reports can be a huge barrier to participants accessing required AT.

On the flip side, there is the potential that not having a formal allied health assessment may result in a participant safety risk and inappropriate AT purchases. It is also possible that purchases may be rushed and not as individualised.

So when can people get their AT?

According to the NDIS Participant Service Guarantee (which has not been legislated yet but is being used as an operational metric by the NDIA), once all of the required evidence has been provided, the Agency must make a decision about low and mid cost assistive technology within 28 days, and within 50 days for high cost AT.

All of the changes and details are summarised in the Assistive Technology Operational Guideline.

Authors

Lisa Duffy

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