It is imperative for governments to ensure that all older Australians have a roof over their heads and an income robust enough to cover food, energy, household expenses and decent health care. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many retirees.
This year’s Budget presents an opportunity to lay the foundations for effective economic policy that will ensure that retirees can better support themselves with legislation that works for all, not just a few.
Having recently surveyed the 250,000 strong YourLifeChoices database, receiving 5064 responses to 33 questions, we learned a lot about the six different retirement tribes and how they are managing their retirement affordability.
According to what you told us in the Retirement Income and Financial Literacy Survey, these are the areas the Government should be looking to address in this year’s Budget:
Making health care more affordable
When asked about the single greatest challenge to living within their retirement income, 36 per cent of our readers responded with health insurance or health bills. With private health insurance premiums rising even higher at the start of this month, this is an issue that is only getting worse. Until recently, our Medicare system has ensured most Australians receive high quality medical care, regardless of their financial situation. It seems this is under threat, with Medicare suffering death by 1000 cuts. The Treasurer should leave Medicare alone, except to ensure that critical health tests, including MRIs, are claimable. Furthermore, the Government needs to look at capping private health insurance premium rate rises.
Keep a lid on energy costs
The other major issue with regard to living within your income was energy costs, with 18 per cent of members naming it their number one challenge. While the responsibility for the cost of energy is mostly in the hands of private business now, due to most states privatising their energy retailers, the constant price hikes and gold-plating of the delivery system demonstrate that it is time for some government intervention to keep the system in check.
Tackle housing affordability
The base rate of the Age Pension remains too low, particularly for those who are renting. Around 10 per cent of respondents to our survey said they were currently renting and around 15 per cent of the retiree population is now going without medical care and food in order to cover rising housing costs. Rental assistance for retirees needs to be increased to ensure these people live with a reasonable measure of dignity. The current rate at which Rent Assistance is paid is far from reasonable given the annual increases, often greater than CPI, imposed by landlords. More affordable government-funded rental accommodation, i.e. social housing, is also required and this needs to be addressed urgently.
What issues would you like the Government to tackle in this year’s Budget?