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Our health becomes more important to maintain as we get older and affording healthcare in retirement is a concern many Australians have. Fortunately, you may be eligible for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC), which helps retirees with some healthcare expenses in Australia.

Let’s explore how the CSHC can benefit you, who can get it and how it can work with private health insurance to help you reduce your healthcare expenses.

What is the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card?

The Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) is a senior’s health care card supplied by the federal government through Centrelink. It helps discount the cost of some prescription medications and provides access to bulk-billed doctor visits, plus additional concessions from state and local governments like cheaper public transport.

You’ll need to meet some eligibility criteria to receive a CSHC, including being over a certain age and earning income under a set annual threshold.

You may also be eligible for a low income health care card or a seniors card from your state or territory government which can be held in conjunction with the CSHC.

Who’s eligible for the CSHC?

You can apply for the CSHC if you meet the following criteria:1

  • You’ve reached the Age Pension age
  • You aren’t receiving payments from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs or Centrelink
  • You’re an Australian citizen or permanent resident living within Australia
  • Your annual income falls under the CSHC income test

Benefits of the CSHC

The CSHC provides a range of benefits for cardholders when it comes to medical costs that become more common in our golden years:

  • You’ll receive concession rates for medications listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). The PBS caps the price of certain medicines to make them more affordable for Australians. If you hold a concession card, this cap is lower. As of January 2022, you won’t pay more than $6.80 for a PBS prescription if you have a CSHC or other eligible concession cards.2
  • General practitioners who don’t typically bulk bill might do so if you hold a CSHC.
  • Having a CSHC provides access to greater perks under the Medicare Safety Net and PBS Safety Net, which help keep annual costs low for medications and some healthcare services like GP visits, blood tests and x-rays. These safety nets are beneficial if you take lots of prescriptions or make regular trips to the doctor.

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Medicare and PBS Safety Nets

If you need to see a doctor or specialist and take prescription medications regularly, you could benefit from the Medicare and PBS Safety Nets. Both safety nets work slightly differently.

The Medicare Safety Net

The Medicare Safety Net is a government-funded scheme that increases your Medicare rebate for eligible out-of-hospital medical expenses if you’ve hit a certain spending threshold in a calendar year.

If you have a CSHC, the Medicare Safety Net can offer a higher reimbursement from Medicare if your expenses for medical treatment exceed these thresholds.

PBS Safety Net

As a CSHC holder, you’re not only eligible for concession prices on medications under the PBS, but you’re also placed on the PBS Safety Net. So, if you spend over a set amount within a year on PBS medicines ($244.80 for concession patients in 2022)2, you’ll then receive all subsequent PBS prescriptions for free for the rest of the calendar year.

Remember that there might be different brands of the same medication, and more expensive ones typically aren’t covered under the PBS or the PBS Safety Net. To find out if a prescription is listed on the PBS, you can consult your GP or visit the PBS website and search online.

If the medication isn’t covered by the PBS and is more expensive than the capped PBS price, an extras policy that provides cover for non-PBS medications may help you claim back some of the cost.

The PBS Safety Net threshold typically changes on 1 January each year.

How does my income affect my eligibility for a CSHC?

To receive a CSHC, your adjusted taxable income and deemed income* must fall under set thresholds:

Income test for Commonwealth Seniors Health Card
RelationshipAnnual income limit
Couples separated by illness, prison or respite care$180,000
Source: Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: Income test. Services Australia. Last updated November 2022.

*Adjusted taxable income includes:

  • Taxable income
  • Income from overseas
  • Reportable superannuation contributions
  • Tax-exempt foreign income
  • Reportable fringe benefits
  • Total net investment losses. 4

Deemed income refers to account-based income streams such as savings accounts, investments, shares and term deposits. 5

The income test is reviewed on 20 September annually.

If you have children in your care, your annual income threshold increases by a set amount for each child (currently $639.60).3

Is there an asset test for the CSHC?

No, there’s no asset test for the CSHC, only an income test.3 An asset test includes real estate, any payment made for residing in a retirement village, superannuation investments, vehicles, personal belongings and investments like term deposits.

Asset tests are used by the Australian Government when calculating your pension payment (should you be eligible), as it helps provide a broad picture of your wealth and your ability to support yourself should you need to fall back on selling assets.

Does the CSHC cover services that Medicare doesn’t?

No, the CSHC doesn’t provide any benefit for services that aren’t covered by Medicare. Neither does private hospital cover, which works in conjunction with Medicare to help subsidise the cost of private hospital care. However, private health insurance can help pay for a range of costs that the CHSC doesn’t cover.

For example, private hospital cover helps you:

  • Avoid public waiting lists for elective surgeries
  • Be seen by a doctor you choose
  • Recover in a private room (if available).

Extras cover can be used for a range of out-of-hospital services Medicare doesn’t subsidise, such as physiotherapy, dental and optometry needs (e.g. prescription eyewear).

To help reduce the cost of private health insurance for older Australians, the private health insurance rebate increases as we age. You can receive this rebate as a discount on insurance premiums or as a tax benefit when filling out your tax return.

More frequently asked questions

What's Australia's retirement age?

The Age Pension age, or retirement age, is the age where you can claim the Age Pension (subject to your eligibility). The CSHC uses the retirement age when establishing eligibility; your retirement age depends on when you were born.

Birth yearNew pension ageDate of implementation
1 July 1952 – 31 December 195365 years and six months1 July 2017
1 January 1954 – 30 June 195566 years1 July 2019
1 July 1955 – 31 December 195666 years and six months1 July 2021
1 July 1957 and onwards67 years1 July 2023
Source: Age Pension: Who can get it. Services Australia. Last updated August 2022

How do I apply for the CSHC?

There are two ways you can apply for the CSHC. You can:

  • Visit a local Centrelink branch to begin your application.
  • Go online through a myGov account that’s linked to Centrelink.

You can view the Department of Human Services guide to getting a CSHC card here to learn more about getting a CSHC.

Is the CSHC the same as the Pension Concession Card?

No, the CSHC is not the same as the Pension Concession Card. However, they’re both provided by Centrelink and grant similar benefits such as cheaper medicine, health care and additional discounts.

The Pension Concession Card is available to Australians receiving the aged pension from the government, while the CSHC is for those who don’t receive a pension or hold a pension concession card.

Does the CSHC give me discounts on energy bills or public transport?

Yes, if you hold a CSHC, you may receive discounts on several other costs, though these differ between states and local council areas. You could receive discounts for:7

  • Energy bills
  • Property rates
  • Water charges
  • Public transport
  • Ambulance costs
  • Dental and eye care

If my details change, do I need a new CSHC?

Should your personal details change, such as your relationship status, address or income, then you’ll need to contact Centrelink to update your details.

Comparing health insurance for your senior years

Want extra cover as you enter the golden years? While the CSHC can give you a further discount on eligible healthcare services, it can’t help you avoid public waiting lists for elective surgery, choose your doctor or cover care in a private hospital.

Luckily, these benefits can be accessed by holding the right private hospital cover.

Comparing health insurance policies available through our free health insurance comparison tool is easy. It can help you compare a number of policies based on what they cover, their excess payments and any other policy features in minutes – saving you time so you can focus on enjoying your retirement.


1 Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: Who can get it. Services Australia. Last updated March 2022.

2 Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme: PBS Safety Net thresholds. Services Australia. Last updated July 2022.

3 Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: Income test. Services Australia. Last updated July 2022.

4 Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: What adjusted taxable income is. Services Australia. Last updated March 2022.

5 Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: Deeming. Services Australia. Last updated March 2022.

6 Age Pension: Who can get it. Services Australia. Last updated August 2022.

7 Commonwealth Seniors Health Card: Benefits. Services Australia. Last updated May 2022.

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