Thousands of 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 Healthcare Card were relaxed.
The changes that went into effect on Friday, November 4 will see the income threshold for access to seniors’ health care cards increased from $57,761 to $90,000 for singles, and from $92,416 to $144,000 for couples.
An extra 44,000 seniors who can now access the cards will now be able to benefit from the scheme.
The card is available for self funded retirees aged 66 years and six months or over and allows recipients to access cheaper medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), bulk-billed doctor visits and, depending on the state in which they reside, discounts on utility bills and public transport.
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth said the change aimed to “create a better Australia where no one is left behind and no one is held back” which according to Risworth “is particularly true for older Australians”.
From today more older Australians can access the Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card.
This is another election commitment we’re delivering on to help ease the cost of living.
It will help improve access to medicines and the cost of seeing a GP. pic.twitter.com/b6eFWPL5LZ
— Amanda Rishworth MP (@AmandaRishworth) November 3, 2022
The recent changes will surely come as a welcome relief to many over 60s after recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed older Australians are suffering the most from the rising cost of living.
In what has been the highest increase in 16 years, pensioners are experiencing an annual household living cost of 4.9 per cent at the time of the findings.
Head of Prices Statistics at the ABS Michelle Marquardt said the main culprit affecting older Australians is the increase in grocery prices, but household costs also played a large role.
“These households were also more affected by increases in housing costs, as they have relatively higher expenditure levels on utilities, maintenance and repair, and property rates,” Marquardt said.
Exacerbating the already troubling issue is the release of the Association of Super Funds of Australia (ASFA) June quarter 2022 figures which found couples aged around 65 need to spend $66,725 per year to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in retirement while singles would be met with an annual cost of $47,383.
These figures indicate a jump of 2.0 per cent for couples and 1.9 per cent rise for singles from the previous quarter.
ASFA Deputy CEO, Glen McCrea pointed to the “ever increasing health costs” that retirees are faced with as a major contributor to the increased cost of retirement.