Notes on the data: Income support

Health Care Card holders, June 2017


Policy context:  Entitlement to an Australian Government Health Care Card (HCC) is used here as a proxy for low socioeconomic status. The HCC provides access to prescription medicines for cardholders and their dependants at greatly reduced cost, free after a cost threshold is reached; access to bulk-billed GP appointments, at the discretion of the doctor (the Government provides financial incentives for GPs to bulk-bill concession card holders); and a reduction in the cost of out-of-hospital medical expenses, through the Medicare Safety Net threshold. The cards may also attract educational, recreational, transport or other concessions from state and local governments and third party providers.

People who have a HCC are generally among the lowest income earners, and, as such, they are likely to also have poorer health. In 2003, it was reported that HCC holders were more likely to suffer chronic health problems (most chronic diseases and poorer oral health), including psychosocial problems (such as sleep disturbances, anxiety and depression), have more medications prescribed and receive less preventive care. Female card holders were less likely to have had a sexual health check (including Pap smear) [1] [2].


  1. Charles J, Valenti L, Britt H. GP visits by health care card holders: a secondary analysis of data from Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH), a national study of general practice activity in Australia. Aust Fam Physician. 2003;32(1/2):85-88,94.
  2. Brennan DS. Oral health of health cardholders attending for dental care in the private and public sectors. (AIHW Cat. no. DEN 196). Canberra: AIHW Dental Statistics Unit; 2009.

Notes:  People eligible for a Health Care Card (HCC) issued by the Department of Human Services are those aged 0 to 64 years who do not hold a Pensioner Concession Card and receive one of the following payments: Carer Allowance; Carer Payment (child) (short term or episodic); Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payment; Family Tax Benefit A (maximum rate only); Mobility Allowance (if not receiving a Disability Support Pension); Newstart Allowance; Parenting Payment (partnered); Partner Allowance; Special benefit; Widow Allowance; or Youth Allowance (job seekers only). People may also be eligible for a HCC if they are a foster carer; ex-holder of a Carer Allowance (child) Health Care Card; or are a low income earner.

PHA data may be the sum of freely available SA2 data if the publication of PHA data could reveal the value of confidentialised cells at the SA2 level. For these indicators, the number of people receiving this payment may be undercounted by up to four persons or either persons if two indicators are added together such as total unemployment which is the sum of Newstart and Youth allowance.

Data cells with less than 5 counts were removed (confidentialised).


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintiles and Remoteness Areas

Numerator:  People in receipt of a Health Care Card from the Department of Human Services


Denominator:  People aged 0 to 64 years


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on data from the Department of Social Services, June 2017; and ABS Estimated Resident Population, 30 June 2017.


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