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Changes to Income Test Rules for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
 
 

In early May 2022, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced unexpected changes to the eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) in the lead up to the Federal Election. This was immediately backed by the now incoming Labor Government. This card is prized by seniors because it gives substantial concessions for pharmaceutical benefits and public dental work.

Anyone currently receiving an Age Pension payment has access to the pensioner concession card.  For those pensioners that currently don’t receive the Age Pension, they may be eligible for the CSHC.

What is the CSHC?

With a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, you may get benefits such as:

  • Cheaper medicine under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
  • Bulk billed doctor visits – if your doctor extends eligibility to Seniors Health Card holders.
  • A refund for medical costs when you reach the Medicare Safety Net.
  • Australians who hold a CSHC are often also eligible for discounts on property and water rates, electricity and gas bills, ambulance, dental, eye care and public transport.

Eligibility

What makes the CSHC different from most concession cards is that there is no assets test. However, there is an income test, which even before the changes, could be described as fairly generous.

The income test takes into account your adjusted taxable income (ATI) plus the deemed income from your superannuation from which you are drawing a pension.  The deeming rates used are the same as those used for the age pension income test.

Currently, the income cut-offs are $57,761 a year for singles, and $92,416 a year for couples.

The changes just announced by the Prime Minister take the single cut-off up to $90,000 and the couples cut-off up to $144,000. These new limits will come into place on 1 July 2022. This announcement was accompanied by a promise to freeze the deeming rates for the next two years, so that pensioners would be unaffected by the expected interest rate rises.

Case Study

John and Susan have a blue-chip share portfolio of $1.2m and $3m in their SMSF Pension accounts (total investments of $4.2m).  Their shares produce dividends of $45,000 a year, plus franking credits of $10,000, so their ATI would be $55,000 a year.  The deemed value of their SMSF would be $65,720 a year which, when added to their ATI, gives them a total income for CHSC purposes of $120,720.

In John and Susan’s case, they would have exceeded the income test in the year ending 30th June 2022 but would now become eligible under the new revised rules from 1st July 2022.

It’s hard to think of too many scenarios where pensioners do not fit the eligibility criteria.  Investors with up to $5m may now be eligible for the CSHC.  It may have been simpler to just give the CHSC card to all seniors and save Centrelink all the administration and paperwork.

If you are over Age Pension age (ie over age 66 years and 6 months) and do not currently hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, it would be wise to reassess your eligibility for this card under the new income test rules.  You would then need to apply for the CSHC as it is not automatically granted.

Please contact Astier if you require any additional information or assistance.

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