Last week the second reading of the Bill to reintroduce Pensioner Concession Cards to those who lost them as part of the asset threshold changes that happened on 1 January 2017. With no opposition the Bill is likely to now pass seamlessly through the Senate so why are they being reinstated, who will get their Pensioner Concession Cards back and when?
Former age pensioners who lost their entitlement to the Pensioner Concession Cards when they ceased being eligible for an Age Pension on 1 January 2017 were issued a Commonwealth Seniors Health Card. Although this grants access to concessions funded by the Commonwealth, such as access to cheaper medicines through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and the lower extended Medicare safety net, it does not give access to many concessions funded by state and territory governments.
The Government has decided to reinstate the Pensioner Concession Card to almost 93,000 pensioners to maximise concessions to this cohort.
Those who were entitled to a Pensioner Concession Card immediately prior to 1 January 2017 but who lost it due to the rebalancing of the asset test thresholds will have their cards reinstated. Consistent with the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card they now have, the Pensioner Concession Card will be automatically reissued from 9 October 2017 with an ongoing income and assets test exemption.
To maintain their current Commonwealth benefits, those former pensioners issued with a Commonwealth Seniors health card will also retain that card.
Although both the Pensioner Concession Card and the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card have an ongoing exemption from the income and asset tests, there are other conditions that apply.
These conditions include portability requirements where cardholders will have their card suspended after being overseas for six weeks. The card will be reactivated on return to Australia. The Pensioner Concession Card will also be cancelled if the cardholder is in jail.