Raise the Health Care Card income threshold

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The government wants to see more Australians off the dole and in the workforce, but are ignoring a common problem making it difficult for low-income earners to step up and get off welfare: the Low Income Health Care Card.

Losing the health care card can make it financially unviable for families to undertake full-time employment.

Mine is one such family finding it near impossible to manage, now that we no longer have a health care card. My husband and I have two children, aged 4 and 2. While my husband was working toward his apprenticeship, we both held a health care card, and I received Parenting Payment (whilst studying) and Family Tax Benefit (FTB). Now that he is qualified, and earning a living wage of $60k, we've been stripped of our health care cards, my parenting payment, and about a third of my FTB. My husband's take-home (after tax) income is only a couple of hundred dollars extra per week, but we've lost that much in payments. Not only that, but our expenses have gone up considerably:

  • I have chronic health problems requiring several medications; my husband and daughter both suffer from asthma, and require preventative medication, as well as Ventolin. Our medication bill alone has gone up from around $50/month to nearly $200/month without the health care card. I often go without my regular medications because we just don't have the cash to spare, leading to withdrawal and other problems.
  • We now pay for visits to our local GP; when we can't afford this, we are forced either to use the nearest bulk-billing clinic over half an hour away, or the public hospital. Specialist appointments are as much as double the out-of-pocket cost.
  • Utilities that previously had concession discounts now cost as much as an extra $1200 per year.
  • Car registration has almost doubled in price.
  • Kinder is offered free to those with a concession card, but without one we will have to pay $1200 in fees.
  • All manner of other services that offer concession discounts - including public transport, movies, and even bank accounts - have become more expensive.
  • We can no longer access many of the local charity services if we fall short and need food, as they require clients to hold a concession card.

Our reward for having my husband work full-time is that we can no longer afford basic expenses. How is this an incentive to get off welfare?

The household income limit to be entitled to a health care card (for those not on a Centrelink payment), for a family of four, is $1028 per week - before tax. Once the rent and bills are paid, there's barely enough to buy food and put fuel in the car, let alone anything else. 

If the government are serious about getting people off welfare, they need to facilitate those doing the right thing and undertaking employment. Raising the threshold for the Low Income Health Care Card would make it possible for families to continue meeting expenses after payments cut out.

Let's be honest: it's not cheap living in our beautiful country. The average full-time wage is $82,436; less than this ought to be considered "low-income" and give eligibility for a health care card. It's just the kind of leg-up that will help Australian families get off welfare, and stay off. If the only reward for hard work is that life gets harder, where's the incentive?

 

Wage statistics: https://www.livingin-australia.com/salaries-australia/

Centrelink Health Care Card information: https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/services/centrelink/low-income-health-care-card


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