More to qualify for Seniors Health Card as income limits increase

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More fully self funded retirees will qualify for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, which provides more concessions than just health related benefits, following the latest increase in the income limit for the card.

The income thresholds for the card were increased substantially last year by the Albanese government as a one-off cost-of-living measure, and the income thresholds for single and couples rise again on September 20.

A Commonwealth Seniors Health Card can be a valuable card for self-funded retirees to have, but many do not realise they are eligiable.Credit:

The income threshold for the card, which is indexed in line with inflation on September 20, takes the threshold for singles to $95,400, from $90,000 and to $152,640 for couples, from $144,000.

This is “adjusted taxable income”, which is mostly made up of taxable income on your tax return, plus the “deemed” income from an account-based pension.

Deeming is a percentage that is applied to the account balance, as set by the federal government.

To be eligible for the card, as well as being under the income thresholds, you must be at least 67, the age pension age, and not receiving the age pension or any other income support payment. There is no assets test.

The card is estimated to be worth up to $4000 a year, for a couple, but the precise amount will vary, depending on how much use is made of the concessions, which extend beyond just health-related concessions.

The card gives self-funded retirees cheaper medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and bulk-billed doctor visits, as doctors have a financial incentive to bulk bill cardholders.

There is also a lower out-of-pocket threshold after which the government reimburses medical expenses.

“Thousands more will be eligible for cheaper medication and doctor visits – though there will be many who are not aware of it,” says Brooke Logan, advice technical and strategy lead at UniSuper.

Depending on the rules in the state or territory where the cardholder lives, they can also receive discounts on electricity and gas, property and water rates and public transport.

Cardholders have to re-apply to receive some of these discounts each year, rather than receiving them automatically.

Brendan Ryan, a financial adviser and founder of Later Life Advice, says confusion over eligibility and the application process means there will be self-funded retirees who are missing out.

No one is going to contact you to say you are eligible. “If you don’t apply, you don’t get it,” Ryan says.

“It’s a bit of work to get the card, but as you get older you are more likely to have more medical expenses and, even if you do not get a lot of value out of it now, you likely will,” he says.

John Perri, the technical strategy manager at AMP, says many fully self-funded retirees have no interactions with CentreLink – and are glad of it – but on “this occasion it does merit contacting Centrelink”.

That can be done through a myGov account that is linked to Centrelink and, of course, a financial adviser can help, Perri says.

He says the increase in the income thresholds may see some of those who already have the card, able to retain it, despite their income having increased, perhaps because they worked extra hours or realised capital gains.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making any financial decisions.

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