Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
What is the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card?
The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) was first introduced in 1994 and is often considered the gold standard of concession cards. Its purpose was to give low income retirees who didn’t qualify for the Age Pension access to similar Commonwealth concessions as the holders of the Pensioners Concession Card (PCC).
Since then access has been increased and benefits widened to make this card an extremely valuable adjunct to self-funded retirees’ retirement income.
“What’s it worth?”
It really depends upon your personal situation, but the savings on the medical safety net and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) are worth about $2500 per annum for singles, double that for couples
Learn more about the benefits here
Essentially, the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card is a concession card which allows holders to access cheaper health care as well as a range of discounts, as long as the holder has reached Age Pension age.
Below we list the conditions which apply to this card, the top level benefits and how the income test works. We also explain how to apply, either on your own, or with support.
It is important to understand, unlike the Age Pension, that there is no assets test on the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, however deemed income on Account Based Pensions is included in the income assessment.
Who gets the Seniors Health Card?
At present, around 420,000 of Australia’s 1.9 million self-funded retirees – just 22% – have received this valuable card. There are many reasons why this might be:
- the 18-page application is incredibly detailed,
- people don’t know it exists, or
- assume that their assets will knock them out.
The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card Eligibility Rules
The current CSHC eligibility rules and conditions require that you must:
- be Age Pension age or older
- meet residency rules
- not be receiving a payment from Centrelink or the Department of Veterans’ Affairs
- supply a Tax File Number, or have submitted a notice of Non Lodgement to the tax office as evidence that you are exempt from having to do lodge a tax return
- meet identity requirements
- meet the health card income test thresholds
Current eligibility thresholds for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
As already mentioned, unlike the Age Pension requirements, only the income test is relevant for eligibility for the seniors health card.
As at the 20 September 2023 the income thresholds are
- Singles – $95,400
- Couples – $152,640
What will you get?
So how much is a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card actually worth? Not surprisingly, the answer varies from household to household.
However it is conservatively estimated that, total Commonwealth Seniors Health Card discounts might add up to $2000-3000 per year. This includes the Medicare safety net, pharmaceutical benefits, and (up to) an additional $3000, depending upon council rates, utility and transport costs.
That’s what earns this card its gold standard status!
To get a deeper understanding of the benefits, take a look at the experience of Sue and Robert.
Commonwealth Seniors Health Card benefits
The CSHC benefits start with:
- cheaper medicine under the PBS
- bulk billed doctor visits (depending upon your doctor)
- a refund for medical costs when you reach the Medicare Safety Net.
- you may also get ad hoc Economic Support Payments, such as the ones which were paid during the Covid pandemic.
On top of this, your state / territory government and local council may provide additional discounts for CSHC card holders. These discounts can include:
- electricity and gas bills
- property and water rates
- health care costs, including ambulance, dental and eye care
- public transport fares
- recreational activities
- Mail charges
- Stamp duty
How is the income test for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card applied?
The criteria for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card income test is reviewed and updated on 20 September each year in line with the Consumer Price Index. So if you are not eligible right now you may be in the future. This test considers both your:
- adjusted taxable income
- a deemed amount from account based income streams.
As noted above, to meet the current income test (from 20 September 2023) you must earn no more than the following:
- $95,400 a year if you’re single
- $152,650 a year for couples
- $190,800 a year for couples separated by illness, respite care or prison.
- Add $639.60 per year to these amounts for each child in your care.
No assets test is applied.
How do you apply for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card?
Applications for a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card are made through the relevant government department (Services Australia) using its agency, Centrelink. You can do this through your MyGov or Centrelink account if you have these accounts. As self-funded retirees, you may not. In which case you can create an account or visit a Centrelink office.
Separately Retirement Essentials offers two levels of assistance and support to help you apply.
Which documentation will you need?
This is where the hard work starts. To meet eligibility criteria you will need to prove age, residency, all income including any lump sums, taxation records and more. The application is a 16-page document, and you will separately have to supply proof of all eligibility criteria.
How we can help?
If it all sounds too hard, there are many ways that Retirement Essentials can help you to get a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card.
As with the Retirement Essentials Age Pension Entitlements Calculator, we are committed to keeping the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card calculator up to date with any and all changes. So rest assured, we are always first to reflect the new thresholds as soon as they become law. And we make sure that you are alerted to any changes in our regular weekly emails.
Why not check your eligibility for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card on our free eligibility calculator
Some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC)
Frances asks about super
Q. Am I correct in assuming that if you have superannuation in accumulation mode, it is not counted in the income test?
A. Thanks for reaching out for further clarity regarding how Centrelink assess superannuation. Whether your super is in accumulation or pension phase it is not directly counted in the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card income test. Centrelink will deem that you earn income from the total balance of any pension accounts you have though and the deemed amount will be counted in the income test.
Deborah is interested in the tax angle
Q. Is the income test pre or post-tax? It seems unfair if pre-tax since after tax take home pay brings you below the threshold, but not eligible?
A. Centrelink assesses your gross (pre-tax) income not the net (post-tax) amount.
Mary wants to know if they will now be eligible?
Q. My husband is Age Pension age (over 66.5 years) and is still working.
He has expected earnings of, say, $65,000 year. I was made redundant in July last year and I have not been successful in finding another job at 64 years old.
My final pay in July totaled $35,000 due to redundancy, holiday pay, days in lieu, etc. so this puts us over the $92,000 for a couple.
Can we apply for a CSHC for my husband? Will he be eligible to receive the card given that we have failed the income test for the 2022 financial year?
A. Yes from what you have said you will fail the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card income test ($92,416) for the 2022 financial year (ending June 30) however you can apply as soon as the new thresholds are law. You will need to let Centrelink know you are no longer employed and have the relevant paperwork for your redundancy and final payments. Our team can help with this. It is always good to get your application completed and submitted as early in July as possible.
Frank is also unclear about eligibility
Q. I am working, aged 68 and earning $112,000 gross. My wife is retired.
We do not get any Centrelink benefits or pension
With the expansion of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, will I be able to get this card?
A. Yes, when the proposed increase to the allowable income for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card goes ahead you will become eligible.
Suzy asks about means-testing
Q. Is the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card means-tested?
A. Yes, the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card is definitely means-tested. The difference between the CSHC and Age Pension is that the CSHC is only means tested based on your income, assets are not included like they are for Age Pension.
Ron asks about the difference between concession cards
Q. What additional benefits are derived from having a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card to just having an Age Pension card?
A. If you are already on the Pensioner Concession Card (PCC) that comes with the Age Pension then you can ignore the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. The PCC has all of the benefits of the CSHC plus more, so no need to worry or try to apply. You can read more detail here.
Merena queries drawdown income
Q. My husband and I are both retired and are self-funded retirees. He is 69 and I turn 66 in September. We hope to apply for Commonwealth Seniors Health Card when I turn 66 and six months in March 2023. Is the income derived from drawdowns from our superannuation included in our income test or just income from other sources of which we have minimal.
A. Centrelink will deem that you earn income from any super pension accounts you and/or your husband have. Accounts still in accumulation have no deeming applied. To learn more about deeming and the rates used CLICK HERE.
What else do you need to know about the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card?
Is the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card the same as the Health Care Card?
We can understand why this is confusing. There are five cards which may be used by older Australians at different times, with different eligibility and different benefits. We have an article which covers health care cards in more detail here.
State Senior Cards
As noted in the table above, each state and territory issues residents with a Seniors Card. Eligibility is based upon age and number of hours worked. These cards are issued in addition to all other listed cards, and offer a wide range of discount options, including transport.
If you’d like to check your card entitlements in one easy session, why not try the National Seniors Concessions Calculator which determines your combined concessions and seniors card discounts, based upon the state where you reside?
Don’t forget, you can quickly check your entitlements by taking just a few minutes to complete our free eligibility calculator which can let you know where you stand regarding the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card and Age Pension.