This year’s Federal Budget made four important changes to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC). These changes seem to be causing a bit of confusion.
The CSHC is a valuable benefit, especially if you’re not entitled to the Aged Pension. It will remain valuable even with the proposed changes.
Here I’ll explain those benefits and the proposed budgetary changes.
CSHC eligibility criteria
To get the CSHC, you need to satisfy all the following criteria:
- Not be receiving a Centrelink or Veteran’s Affairs benefit.
- Be at least age pension age – that is, at least age 65.
- Live permanently in Australia (Australian citizen, permanent visa holder or New Zealand citizen who travelled with New Zealand passport); the CSHC will be cancelled after six weeks of a temporary absence from Australia.
- Have adjusted taxable income of less than $50,000 for singles or $80,000 for couples (combined). Special rules apply if a couple lives apart due to illness and/or have dependent children. Adjusted taxable income is a person’s taxable income, reportable fringe benefits, salary sacrificed superannuation contributions and net investment losses.
The Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card is only valid for a 12-month period and must be applied for each year. To successfully apply, you need to give Centrelink your Tax File Number (or be eligible for an exemption from this requirement).
2014 Budget changes to eligibility
- Adjusted taxable income thresholds will be indexed by CPI for 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 financial years (this is a positive!).
- Account based pensions and annuities that commence after December 2014 will be subject to deeming and the deemed income will be added to your adjusted taxable income, making it harder to qualify. Existing pensions that commence before January 2015 will be exempt.
- The Seniors Supplement will be abolished from 20 Sept 2014 (currently payable quarterly at a rate of $867.20 pa for a single, $1,320.80 pa for a couple).
- The Clean Energy Supplement will remain unchanged at a fixed payment (and will no longer be indexed to inflation).
What does the CSHC entitle you to?
Retirees are entitled to:
- Pharmaceuticals listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) at the concessional rate.
- Bulk-billed GP appointments, at the discretion of the GP (the Australian Government provides financial incentives for GPs to bulk-bill concession card holders).
- A reduction in the cost of out-of-hospital medical expenses above a concessional threshold, through the Medicare Safety Net.
- Discounted fares on Great Southern Railway services.
- In some instances, additional health, household, transport, education and recreation concessions that may be offered by State or Territory and local governments and private providers. However, these providers offer these concessions at their own discretion, and the availability of them may vary between States and Territories (in addition some of these concessions were funded by the Commonwealth, which in this year’s budget reduced the money it gives to the States and Territories for this specific purpose).
- Telephone supplement.
- Clean Energy Supplement – $356.20 (single) or $535.60 (couple combined) – payable twice per year in March and September.
CSHC remains a valuable benefit and the addition of deemed account-based pension income is an important change. I have discussed this issue before from a Centrelink perspective. If you don’t receive the Aged Pension because of the income test but will be eligible for the CSHC, then you might want to look at this deeming issue before January.
Important: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. Consider the appropriateness of the information in regards to your circumstances.
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