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The strategy :  To work out how the changes to the health insurance rebate affect me.

I suppose it means I’ll be paying more for my health insurance. That’s the gist of it though it will depend on whether Opposition leader Malcolm Turnbull delivers on his threat to block the legislation. As you may have picked up from the federal budget, the Government needs to find savings to fund higher pension payments.

One proposed measure is means testing the health insurance rebate, which currently allows you to claim a tax rebate of 30 per cent of the cost of your health insurance if you’re aged under 65, 35per cent if you’re 65 to 69 and 40 per cent if you’re 70 or older.

Most people ask their health fund to reduce their premiums to take account of the rebate rather than paying the full premium and claiming the rebate in their tax return. For someone under 65, a monthly insurance premium of $250 could be reduced to $175. That won’t change if you earn up to $75,000 if you’re single and $150,000 for families. But if your income is higher, your rebate will be reduced or cut out altogether.

How will that work? Let’s look at singles first. If you earn $75,001-$90,000, your rebate will be reduced to 20 per cent. If you earn $90,001-$120,000, the new rebate will be 10 per cent.

Once your income exceeds $120,000 you will be ineligible for the rebate.

For families, the combined income limits are $150,001-$180,000 for the 20per cent rebate, $180,001-$240,000 for the 10 per cent rebate and the rebate will disappear altogether once family income exceeds $240,000.

All income thresholds will be indexed to wages and will be adjusted for families with one child in the same way that thresholds are already adjusted for determining whether you have to pay the Medicare levy surcharge if you don’t have private health cover. The threshold is currently lifted by $1500 for each dependent child.

The Government says the definition of your income for the rebate will be the same as for the Medicare levy surcharge. Challenger’s head of technical services, Alex Denham, says this definition is changing from July 1 to include your taxable income, reportable fringe benefits, salary sacrificed to super or any personal deductible super contributions made and net investment losses. So higher-income earners won’t be able to use strategies such as salary sacrifice to get or increase their rebate.

Would I be better off dropping my health insurance and paying the Medicare levy surcharge? The proposed measures also include a rise in this surcharge precisely to stop this sort of behaviour.

The 1 per cent surcharge will rise to 1.25per cent once income exceeds $90,000 for singles or $180,000 for couples and to 1.5 per cent for incomes exceeding $120,000 or $240,000. That extra tax may cancel out any savings from dropping your health cover.

MLC’s head of technical services, Andrew Lawless, says a better option may be to make changes to your policy, such as increasing the excess you pay before claiming on the cover or reducing cover on ancillary benefits. However, to avoid the surcharge you must have hospital cover with an excess of $500 or less for singles or $1000 or less for families or couples per calendar year.

When will the changes come in? Not until July 1 next year, so you have time to check the final details if the measures are passed and weigh up your options.

It’s worth noting that the Medicare levy surcharge income limits will be indexed from their current levels of $70,000 for singles and $140,000 for couples to the new $75,000 and $150,000 levels at this time.

Source : www.watoday.com.au

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pensioners

Bet and Bob Poole, Coogee

Healthcare and getting by are key concerns for Bet and Bob Poole, who are war veteran pensioners courtesy of Bob’s service as a merchant marine in World War II.

The retired, married couple receives $957.80 a fortnight in pension payments from the Federal Government.

“We’ve been married for 62 years – you don’t get that for murder – and I’ve felt like murdering him a few times,” Bet quips.

“If we have a banana, we’ve got to share it, because we can’t afford two.

“Because you get about $75 extra each if you’re a single pensioner, we know a few of them who are living together and saying they’re separated, which is all well and good as long as you don’t get caught.”

Bet has a heart condition that needs four prescriptions costing $21.20 per month to treat. Bob relies on two prescriptions for another ailment, which cost him $10.60. The couple’s income includes a combined monthly rebate of $10 for prescriptions.
Bet and Bob say any decrease in their combined $11.20 prescription gap would be most welcome.

The couple has private health insurance, which they say they will have to surrender if Treasurer Wayne Swan cuts the 30 per cent private health insurance subsidy.

“If the Government wipes that 30 per cent, I won’t be able to be in it,” Bet says.

“Sooner or later, I am going to have to have my main (heart) valve replaced, and even if I have got private insurance that will cost thousands and thousands to replace.”

Bet says a push by the Pensioners’ League for an extra $30 per week income for single pensioners would not help her or Bob.

“We’re not going to get anything because we’re married, so if I divorce him, I’ll get $30,” she says.

Regardless, she resents that a pay rise for pensioners is even in question when federal politicians have just received one.

“They’re going to give themselves $90 per week and they’re trying to lower that $30 right down to nothing, and that stinks,” Bet says.

Electricity, gas and water prices are going through the roof.

“If we don’t get something in the budget, it means a lot of the pensioners are not going to eat.”

Bob says there should be greater health support for his former comrades injured in war.
www.watoday.com.au

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budget 09TONIGHT’S Federal Budget will be about three things – jobs, nation building and a path back to surplus.

That was the message from Treasurer Wayne Swan this morning as he again repeated the Government’s mantra that there would be “difficult decisions” and “no easy answers”.

Just hours from delivering a in Budget ravaged by a $200 billion writedown revenue, Mr Swan said he was working in the “most difficult set of circumstances in 75 years”.

But he dodged questions about the likely impact on Labor in the polls, saying: “What we have to do is the right thing in the nation’s long-term economic interests”.

Wealthy retirees emerged as the latest group to pay the price for that stance today.

The Daily Telegraph reported they could have their pensions cut to help fund a $30-a week increase for almost one million single age pensioners.

The Government is expected to tighten the taper rate on the age pension, a method by which it claws back the welfare payment from retirees with an independent income.

It is just one of a number of cutbacks the Government is expected to outline as it tries to rein in an expected almost $60 billion Budget deficit.

The 30 per cent tax rebate for private health insurance coverage will be means tested, payouts for obstetric and IVF services under the Medicare Safety Net will be cut back and the increase in the first-home owners grant will be wound back.

Wealthy Australians will have their tax break on superannuation contributions cut in half and government superannuation co-contributions for low income earners will be slashed from $1500 to $1000 a year.

The “sin taxes” on alcohol and cigarettes could be increased.

But the Budget will announce an 18-week paid maternity leave scheme.

And it is expected to include a big-spending jobs package to combat an expected increase in unemployment to 8.5 per cent as a result of the global financial crisis.

The Opposition said the Budget cutbacks were made necessary by the Government’s irresponsible big-spending stimulus packages in response to the global financial crisis.

The $30-a-week rise in the pension will go only to single age pensioners and will see the weekly pension rate rise from $284.90 to $315 a week.

It will answer criticism that the payment left in poverty those who relied solely on the pension.

The rise is also expected to be extended to single veterans and disability pensioners but will not go to single mothers.

The pension rise will cost more than $3 billion, and to help pay for it, the Government is expected to tighten means testing of pensions.

Currently, single pensioners can earn up to $41,000 and still receive a small pension payment.

They also qualify for a range of concessions on medicines, council rates, electricity bills and telephone allowances worth up to $10,000 a year.

Couples can earn up to $68,000 and still get access to these valuable concessions.

http://www.news.com.au

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