Low Income Health Care Card

Early Retirees seeking help with Health Care Costs

By Christine Hopper

The Commonwealth ‘Low Income Health Care Card’ provides access to the Concession Rates for PBS prescriptions and Commonwealth funded bulk billing medical services similar to those available to Age Pensioners.  Some State government and utility providers also offer concessions and/or discounts to holders of the Low Income Health Care Card.

Benefits available to holders of the Low Income Health Care Card usually include

• PBS Prescriptions at the ‘Pensioner’ Concession rates for the Card holder and named dependants

• Bulk billing for consultations with your local doctor, but not all medical centres offer bulk billing for pensioners and Health Care Card holders

• Bulk billing at many pathology and radiography practices, check when making an appointment

• Concession fares on public transport. In Melbourne, Low Income Health Care Card holders pay about half of the full adult fare.  You must carry the Card with you on public transport to be eligible for the Concession fares.

• Concession discounts on electricity, gas and water bills.  You must show your Low Income Health Care Card when paying your bill at the Post Office or call the relevant Accounts Office and have your Low Income Health Care Card number recorded.

• The partner and any child dependants of the Low Income Health Care Card holder will be named on the Card and are eligible for the Low Income Health Care Card concessions.

There is no Asset Test for the Low Income Health Care Card.  But there is an Income Test which is specific to the Low Income Health Care Card.

The Low Income Health Care Card is available to residents of any age who satisfy the Income Test.

For a Single at Centrelink person without dependants, the July 2012 Income Test limit for the grant of a Low Income Health Care Card is $483 per week averaged over the last eight weeks.  Thus a Single person could be granted a Low Income Health Care Card if her total ‘income’ for the most recent 8 week period did not exceed $3,864.

The Low Income Health Care Card is valid for six months only.  Low Income Health Care Cards can be renewed at the end of the six months provided that the Income Test is satisfied for the eight week period ending on the date the renewal form is lodged at Centrelink.

The Ongoing Income Test allows for your income to increase by 25% before you lose eligibility for the Low Income Health Care Card.  Thus the Single at Centrelink Low Income Health Care Card holder could continue to use her Low Income Health Care Card if her ‘income’ did not exceed $4,830 for any 8 week period during the 6 month period covered by her Card.  She must stop using her Card if her income increases to, say, $5,000 over 8 weeks because she started working more hours.

Centrelink handle claims for the Low Income Health Care Card.

Different Income Test allowances apply for Couples at Centrelink but remember that the Couples Income Test is based on the combined total income of the Couple. Read about “Who is a couple at Centrelink?” at http://www.financialcareservices.com.au/newsletters/vol-1-ed-3/

The Income Test allowances are reviewed regularly.

Income for Low Income Health Care Card Applications

For the 8 week period, Income is your gross before tax income and includes all

• employment income – wages, salary and self-employment income
• employer-provided fringe benefits
• rental income
• reportable superannuation contributions (salary sacrifice)
• Centrelink pensions or benefits and some supplementary payments
• Department of Veterans’ Affairs payments
• deemed income from financial investments such as bank accounts, managed investments and shares ( read about Deemed Financial Income at http://www.financialcareservices.com.au/newsletters/vol-2-ed-2/
• income from income stream products such as allocated pensions, annuities, and superannuation pensions
• foreign income
• private trusts and companies
• compensation
• New Enterprise Incentive Scheme
• Paid Parental Leave
• lump-sum payments, such as redundancy, leave, or termination payments.

Maximum gross income to qualify for a Low Income Health Care Card as at July 2012

Your income must be below the limit that applies to you for the eight-week period if you are to be eligible for a Low Income Health Care Card.

For a Single person without children, the limit is $483 per week,  $3 864 for an eight week period

For a Single person with one dependent child, the limit on their combined income is $838 per week, $6,704 for an eight week period

For a Couple without children, the limit on their combined income is $838 per week, $6,704 for an eight week period

An additional amount of Income is allowed for each additional dependent child in your care.

Each time you apply for or renew your Low Income Health Care Card, you will be required to requalify. To be entitled to a new or renewed card, your weekly income must be no higher than the maximum gross income required to qualify for a Low Income Health Care Card as shown above.

If you would like further confidential, independent and professional advice about Centrelink, lifestyle or financial issues please contact Christine Hopper at Financial Care Services – call(03) 9808 0338.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this website is of a general nature only and does not constitute “financial advice”. You should obtain your own personal financial advice before investing any money or moving in to any retirement village, lifestyle community or aged care facility. Financial Care Services is licensed to provide financial advice to individual clients based on their personal situations. © 2012 Financial Care Services Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.
To make an appointment for professional advice, call Financial Care Services (03) 9808 0338