More self-funded retirees would be able to access cheaper health care and medication under a multi-million-dollar Coalition election promise to tackle cost-of-living pressures for tens of thousands of older Australians.
- More older Australians to get cheaper health care and medication under Coalition election pitch
- Cost-of-living pressures have been front and center during the federal election campaign
- Federal Labor is promising to match the Coalition’s plan to expand the seniors health card
If elected in the May poll, the Coalition is promising to spend $70 million over four years giving an extra 50,000 older Australians access to the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC).
The card is currently issued to about 436,000 Australians over 67 who do not qualify for the age pension because the value of their assets is too high and gives them access to some cheaper Medicare services and prescription medicines.
It comes with a singles income test of just under $58,000 a year, but the Coalition is proposing to expand eligibility for the card by increasing that to $90,000 from July 1.
The couples’ threshold would also rise from just over $92,000 to $144,000.
The surging cost of living has been front and center during this federal election campaign for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Anthony Albanese, with both sides arguing they were best placed to help Australians combat higher prices.
Mr Morrison used the election pitch to again argue the Coalition was mitigating rising household pressures.
“This is the first major change, outside of indexation, to the income threshold of the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card in over 20 years,” he said.
“Every dollar counts, especially for older Australians who are no longer working.
“Senior Australians have worked hard to make Australia all that it is today, and it’s important that the country takes care of them in return.”
Labor says it will match the pledge, with campaign spokesman Jason Clare telling Channel Seven it is a good idea.
Regardless of who wins the election, PBS medications will be cheaper.
By next year, all Australians will be paying less for medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), regardless of who wins the May election.
The Coalition announced on Saturday that all PBS drugs would be cut by $10 to a maximum of $32.50 should it be returned to the government, after accidentally announcing and then retracting the policy last month.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese used Labor’s campaign launch on Sunday to outbid the government for $2.50, announcing the cost of PBS medication would be slashed by $12.50.
Shadow Health Minister Mark Butler told the ABC that prescription drugs were currently too expensive.
“Hundreds of thousands of people aren’t accessing the medicines that their doctors say they need simply because of cost,” he said.
“This is a core issue of equity and universality of healthcare.”
Pharmacy Guild of Australia president Trent Twomey welcomed bipartisan support for the policy, describing it as a step in the right direction.
“Community pharmacies see patients struggling to afford medicines from prescription to prescription and from pay check to pay check,” Professor Twomey said.
“As the cost of living rises, patients are increasingly finding themselves being forced to choose between putting food on the table or buying the medicines they and their families need.
“We don’t want to see Australians ending up in emergency, in hospital, or with long-term damage to their health because they have been forced to delay or skip taking essential medicines due to cost.”
Both parties have promised their pharmaceutical pledges would come into effect early next year.