More older Australians will now be eligible for a raft of discounts on healthcare, medication, and even utility bills after income tests for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card were significantly increased.
The changes, which went into effect on Wednesday, September 20, will see the income threshold for access to seniors’ health care cards increased to $95,400 per annum for singles and to $152,640 for couples combined.
The card is available for those of Age Pension age and allows recipients to access cheaper medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), bulk-billed doctor visits and, depending on the state in which you reside, discounts on utility bills and public transport.
With the recent changes to thresholds, more self-funded retirees could now be eligible for concessions which can save older Australians thousands of dollars in health and medical expenses.
Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth urged older Australians to check their eligibility for the Seniors Health Card to enjoy “discounts in terms of energy, doctors visits, etcetera” while announcing additional changes to age pension payments.
“For the age pension, not only will the amount increase, but also, as I said, for those that are getting rent assistance, that will also increase. But for those on the Age Pension other things automatically flow on,” she told ABC Radio.
“For example, if you’re on a part pension because you’ve got some assets or you’ve got some income, those higher rates of where it cuts out will automatically index as well. They’ll automatically go up. So, you don’t have to worry that because of this increase that suddenly you’ll come off the pension, because they are indexed today as well.
“The other thing I’d say is that the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, which is not just available to those on Centrelink payments, but also available to people that might be a self-funded retiree, those thresholds have gone up as well. It’s worth checking to see if you’re eligible for that on the Services Australia website. Because if you’re eligible for that, you get discounts in terms of energy, doctors visits, etcetera.”
Over 20,000 older Australians have taken up the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card since we expanded the eligibility. And from 20 September more older Australians will be eligible.
This is just one of the ways we’re helping older Australians with the cost of living. pic.twitter.com/yCzmzMcKOO
— Amanda Rishworth MP (@AmandaRishworth) September 10, 2023
In addition to changes to the threshold limits for the Seniors Health Card, those on the age pension were among the over 5.5 million Centrelink recipients who received a boost to their social security payments after indexation of their payments took effect.
As of Wednesday, September 20, recipients of the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension and Carer Payment received an increase to their fortnightly payments. The single pension rate increased by $32.70 to $1096.70, and the rate for couples combined increased by $49.40 to $1653.40. These figures include Pension Supplement and Energy Supplement.
In a previous statement, Rishworth said the Government is aware that Australians are continuing to struggle with the cost of living pressures, calling the increase in payments “a lifeline for many Australians who are doing it tough or may need some extra support”.
“Indexation is a vital mechanism to safeguard the purchasing power of social security payments, ensuring they keep pace with the cost of living,” Rishworth said.
“Higher inflation is being felt most within the homes of those on low fixed incomes and these payments are a lifeline for many Australians who are doing it tough or may need some extra support.”
The age pension is the most common form of income support available to older Australians. According to the latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the number of people receiving Age Pension increased by 6 per cent over the last 8 years – from 2.4 million to 2.6 million between June 2014 and June 2022.
You can find out what payments and services you are entitled to via the Services Australia website.