Health Care card changes from 1 January 2015

Changes from 1 January could affect the cost of your Health Care

Changes to the cost of attending a doctor as a result of the announcements from the Federal Budget in May 2014 have gained a lot of attention, however an even greater cost to your health could come as a result of the changes to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card.

This Health Care card gave the recipient access to cheaper prescription medicines, Australian government funded medical services and other government concessions and is considered invaluable to lots of retirees.

The card is currently issued to self-funded retirees, who have met the age requirements for the Age Pension but do not qualify for a payment given their assets and income levels. The main requirement for the card is to meet an income test based on adjusted taxable income. This level for a couple was $80,000 and under current rules the tax free income stream they were receiving from their superannuation assets was not counted.

From 1 January 2015 the proposal is to have the tax free income stream received from a superannuation fund counted towards the income test. This could potentially mean that many people will not be able to access this Health Care card in the future.  The intention is that pensions already commenced will be ‘grandfathered’, such so that the old rules for these will continue to apply.

In light of these changes, you should give some consideration to:

  • Thinking twice about recommencing an income stream next year as this will reset the amount counted towards the test;

And

  • Commencing an income stream before the end of the year to ensure the income is not counted towards the test

Further discussions with your accountant or financial advisor may be important to ensure that you retain this invaluable card into the future.