Nationals blast seniors card change

SELF-FUNDED retirees in the Clarence Valley could be ineligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card after the Federal Government voted in changes to the requirements this week.

The Government voted in the Social Security and Veteran's Entitlement Amendment (Commonwealth Services Health Card) Bill on Tuesday. The bill changes the taxable income test for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card to take into account income from superannuation and income salary sacrificed to superannuation.

Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker said up to 22,000 seniors nationally would lose their cards as a result of the changes, while a spokesman for Nationals Senator Fiona Nash said that on the North Coast, eight per cent of seniors who hold the card, or about 500 people, would be affected.

In the Cowper electorate, 1587 people hold a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card, while 2661 people hold it in Page.

Mr Hartsuyker called the changes 'mean-spirited'.

“Self-funded retirees are subject to exactly the same pressures as far as their costs are concerned but with no prospect of any increase in their income,” he said. “Many have seen a reduction in income as the stock market crash has reduced the value of their investments.”

Page MP Janelle Saffin said the legislation did not change the income cut-off levels for eligibility, while deeming rates for part pension/self-funded retirees were at their lowest since 2004.

“These changes mean the income assessment best reflects the disposable income available to people claiming the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card,” she said.

She said there was no way of knowing how many cardholders would be affected in the present economic climate, with more self-funded retirees eligible for the card due to the lower return on their super funds.

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