Pension concession cards – are they worth it?

I have worked with Age, Veterans Affairs pensions and self-funded retirees for over 30 years now and the one issue that can be common to a majority of these people is their desire to have a pension concession card.

‘How do I get a pension concession card and if I lose entitlement to my pension how do I hang onto my pension concession card?’ I cannot count how many times I have been asked these two questions.

The more interesting question I believe is, how much is the card worth? The proposed changes to the assets thresholds from 1January 2017 will ensure that this becomes an even more relevant question.

It is very difficult to put an exact value on the cards which is common to everyone.

Let me try and explain why…

As a person over the age of 65, you may find that you have an entitlement to at least one of the following:

Age pension concession card

A pensioner concession card entitles you to reduced prescription costs of $6.10 under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. There is also an annual $366.00 safety net in other words if you need to fill more than 60 prescriptions in a year, the 61st will be free.

You may also be entitled to various concessions from the Australian Government. These could include:

  • Bulk billing for doctor’s appointments – this is your doctor’s decision;
  • More refunds for medical expenses through the Medicare Safety Net;
  • Assistance with hearing services through the Department of Health; and
  • Discounted mail redirection through Australia Post.

Commonwealth health seniors card

Your Commonwealth seniors health card provides similar discounts to the pension concession card on Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prescription medicines. You may also get a discount or concession on:

  • Bulk billed doctor appointments, at the discretion of the doctor;
  • Cheaper out of hospital medical expenses through the Medicare Safety Net;
  • Concessional rail travel on Great Southern Rail services, such as The Indian Pacific, The Ghan, and The Overland; and
  • In some instances, extra health, household, transport, education, and recreation concessions that are offered by state or territory and local governments and private businesses – these providers offer concessions at their own discretion, and the availability of these concessions may vary between states and territories.

Seniors card

Each state and territory has a seniors card scheme and some reciprocal arrangements are in place for using your card in other states. It is a free card, providing transport concessions and participating business discounts on a range of goods and services.

To be eligible, you must be a resident of the state (the age qualification varies between states, in some it is 60 years of age and over, in others it is 65 years and over) and not working more than a set numbers of hours per week in paid employment.

The concessions again vary between state and territory governments and local councils but may include:

  • Reductions on property and water rates;
  • Reductions on energy bills;
  • Reduced fares on public transport;
  • Reductions on motor vehicle registration; and
  • Free rail journeys.

In some cases you are able to receive the discounts by just holding the seniors card however in some states you need to also hold the pensioner concession card.

The Rolls Royce of concession cards from a health and transport point of view and rightly so, is the card issued by the Department of Veteran Affairs to ex-Veterans who are suffering from heath issues as a result of their war service:

Gold card: ‘DVA health card – for all conditions’

A gold card entitles the holder to DVA funding for services for all clinically necessary health care needs, and all health conditions, whether they are related to war service or not.  The card holder may be a veteran or the widow/widower or dependent of a veteran.

So what is the value?

It depends on where you live, your health, transport requirements, whether you own your home or rent, are a self-funded retiree or an age pensioner or in some cases whether you own a boat and fish or you don’t.  Everyone will be different!

The following link can provide an overview of the concessions available in each state and territory – http://www.australia.gov.au/content/seniors-card.

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