How to get the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card

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Forty-four thousand retirees are about to become eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. Here is what you get and how to get it.

The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) is a federal government concession card for low-income self-funded retirees. The primary benefit is that it provides access to cheaper medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). In some cases, you may get a concession rate at your local GP (subject to their discretion).

However, there are also some concessions available to CSHC holders from state and territory governments.

To get the card, you must meet the residency requirements, be of Age Pension age and meet an income test.

As a result of the election, the income test threshold will increase, which was a promise of both major parties.

After some delays, the income test limits passed through parliament on 26 October 2022. The income test limits were increased to $90,000 for single people (up from $61,284) and $144,000 for couples (up from $98,054).

An additional forty-four thousand retirees can apply for the CSHC in the coming fortnight as it is given royal assent by the Governor-General.

CSHC benefits

The card entitles you to:

  • Cheaper prescription medicines: Those listed under the PBS are subsidised by the federal government.
  • Bulk-billed doctor visits: At the discretion of the doctor.
  • Access to the Extended Medicare Safety Net (EMSN) Concessional benefit: This gives you a better Medicare refund for any out-of-hospital costs during a calendar year. The 2022 threshold amount for out-of-pocket hospital costs is $717.90. If you exceed this, you will be refunded 80 per cent of the amount or the EMSN benefit caps for hospital services. More information at the Medicare website.
  • Additional concessions from state and local governments: Depending on where you live, these concessions can lower your electricity and gas bills, property and water rates, health care costs and public transport fares.

By far, retirees with a CSHC in Western Australia get the most benefit from state concessions, receiving a whopping $1,600 in concessions.

However, other states and territories offer concessions for CSHC holders, which you can check out on our handy National Seniors Concessions Calculator.

How do I get one?

The CSHC is not automatically issued, unlike the Pensioner Concession Card. You must apply.

To get the card, you must be of pension age, on the Age Pension or earning below the income threshold (described above).

Unlike the Age Pension, there are no asset thresholds for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, but some of your assets will be deemed to earn income which is included in your income assessment.

Unlike the Age Pension, the eligibility test for the CSHC does not include an assets test, but it does use some of your assets to estimate your income.

Assessable income, under the CSHC income test, includes a combination of actual income and deemed income. Actual income is ‘adjusted taxable income, which comprises of:

  • Taxable income
  • Target foreign income
  • Total net investment losses
  • Employer-provided benefits
  • Reportable superannuation contributions

Deemed income is only from account-based income streams (not from any other financial assets you own).

An account-based income stream is purchased with superannuation money and is commonly known as an allocated or transition to retirement pension.

Deeming rates currently sit at 0.25 per cent for the first $53,600 of your financial assets and 2.25 per cent for anything over $53,600.

However, if you are a couple and neither gets a pension, the deeming threshold is different. The first $44,500 of each of your joint financial assets are deemed at 0.25 per cent per year. Anything over $44,500 is deemed to earn 2.25 per cent.

Thanks to another election promise, these deeming rates will be frozen for two years, even if interest rates keep going up.

You can check with Centrelink when the changes have taken effect. When you are ready to apply, make a claim.

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