Notes on the data: Income support

Health Care Card holders, June 2021


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 [1].


  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.

Notes:  The Health Care Card is automatically issued to people who are not qualified for a Pensioner Concession Card, and are receiving:

  • JobSeeker Payment, Partner Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Widow Allowance, Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY Living Allowance, Mobility Allowance, Special Benefit, or Parenting Payment (partnered);
  • Carer Allowance (child);
  • Carer Payment (child) on a short-term or episodic basis;
  • Exceptional Circumstances Relief Payment, Farm Household Allowance, Family Tax Benefit Part A (by fortnightly instalments and whose family income is below the Family Tax Benefit Part A lower income free area).

Population Health Area (PHA) data were derived from already suppressed Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) data. Therefore, if a PHA includes an SA2 with suppressed data, there could be an undercount of up to 4 people in the PHA.

State and territory totals were also provided in the source data. Data in the ‘Unknown’ data row in the Excel data workbooks are calculated from the difference between the sum of the PHA data and the State/Territory totals and include the sum of these suppressed SA2 cells.

Data cells with counts of less than five were suppressed (confidentialised).


Geography: Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area

Numerator:  People in receipt of a Health Care Card from Centrelink


Denominator:  People aged 0 to 64 years


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on data from DSS Payment Demographic Data, June 2021, available from, accessed 16 August 2021, and Australian Bureau of Statistics Estimated Resident Population, 30 June 2020.

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