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Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC)

Legislative Authority

Veterans' Entitlements Act 1986
Sections 118V-118ZZA

 

Stated Current Purpose/Intent

To provide concessions to retirees of pension age who fail to qualify for an income support pension or a social security pension or benefit.

 

Current Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for a CSHC from DVA, a person must be:

  • a veteran with qualifying service;
  • a partner (including widows and widowers) of a veteran with qualifying service; or
  • a war widow or widower.

The person must also:

  • have reached pension age (or qualifying age if a war widow or widower);
  • be an Australian resident and residing in Australia;
  • not be receiving a service pension, income support supplement or age pension from DVA;
  • not be receiving a pension or benefit or CSHC from Department of Human Services; and
  • satisfy the CSHC income test*.

*Clients over pension age whose pension was reduced to nil on 1 January 2017 as a result of changes to the assets test do not need to meet the usual CSHC income test.

 

Notes

  1. The card is issued annually and entitles cardholders to a quarterly payment of seniors supplement to assist with the payment of energy, telephone, internet, rates, water and sewerage expenses.
  2. CSHC holders are also entitled to pharmaceuticals at the concessional rate under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, the Medicare Safety Net threshold and concessional fares on the Great Southern Railways.

 

Date of Introduction

1 July 1994

 

Original Purpose/Intent

In the 1993 Budget, the Government announced the provision of a Seniors Health Card to assist those retirees who qualified for fringe benefits under the income test, but either failed the assets test or were excluded by the residency requirements.

The CSHC does not give the cardholder direct access to any State, Territory or local government concessions, although some State, Territory and local governments may recognise the CSHC for additional concessions.  To avoid confusion with State Seniors Cards, the prefix 'Commonwealth' was added to the name.

The card originally provided a limited range of health-related concessions and was targeted at those retirees who are asset rich but income poor.

 

Significant Changes in Criteria or Purpose Since Introduction

1995

Eligibility for the CSHC was extended to widows and widowers and non-illness separated spouses who lose entitlement to the pensioner concession card due to the means-test.

1999

The CSHC income test changed from 'ordinary income' to 'taxable' income adjusted to include the person's taxable income as per their tax assessment notice, net rental property loss, target foreign income and the value of the employer provided fringe benefits.

1997

Eligibility to access dental treatment through the Commonwealth Dental Program ceased from 1 January 1997.  Access to hearing aids through the Australian Hearing Services was discontinued from 1 July 1997.

2001

CSHC holders who are eligible telephone subscribers became eligible to receive a quarterly payment of telephone allowance (TA).  Concessional fares were extended to CSHC holders for rail journeys with the Great Southern Railways.

2004

Seniors concession allowance was introduced to assist CSHC holders with the payment of energy, rates, water and sewerage expenses.

2009

Seniors supplement replaced both telephone allowance and seniors concession allowance from September 2009 for CSHC holders.

2010

From the 2009-10 tax year, two new income items were added to the CSHC income test: net financial investment loss and reportable superannuation contributions.

2013

CSHC portability provisions that relate to overseas travel were changed on 1 January 2013. The portability restrictions previously set at 13 weeks were reduced to 6 weeks.

2014

Portability provisions for CSHC cardholders were removed from 1 July 2014.  The provisions remain for the seniors supplement and the energy supplement.

Annual indexation of the income thresholds commenced from 20 September 2014, with reference to the Consumer Price Index.

2015From 1 January 2015, account-based income streams are deemed to earn income for the purposes of the CSHC income test.  Grandfathering applies to those who continuously held a CSHC and income stream since 31 December 2014.
2017

For new CSHC holders granted on or after 20 September 2016, Energy Supplement will cease being paid from 20 March 2017.  Grandfathering arrangements may apply for some new CSHC holders.  Those who also hold a Gold Card will continue to receive Energy Supplement through their Gold Card.