Make sure your family are all on the same Medicare card and registered for the Safety Net

You may have heard of the Medicare Safety Net. For years I had no idea what it was, except that it wasn’t something that was in my world.

The Department of Human Services do a surprisingly good job of defining it on their website: Financial assistance for high costs for out of hospital medical services that attract a Medicare benefit.

What does that have to do with everyone being on the same Medicare card? Because all of your expenses are accumulated, but ONLY if you’re on the same card, and are registered for the Safety Net.

My wife and I had no idea about this until 2008. I’d had a knee reconstruction, which, as you may well imagine, is not a cheap affair. We went into our local Medicare office to present a backlog of receipts to receive our benefits back on. These ranged from GP visits for both of us, to the Medicare claimable parts of my knee reconstruction. This was back in the day where it was rare that you could just pay the gap- you paid the whole lot for your doctors appointment (eg: $80), and then you took that receipt to Medicare for a benefits refund of maybe $40.

I can’t remember the threshold at the time, but I think it was around $1000. Individually we weren’t even close, but together, we were. The lovely Medicare staff advised of this, and got us to register for the Safety Net (you need to do this as well as be on the same Medicare card).

So what does it mean when you hit the Safety Net? Instead of getting back a moderate percentage of your medical bill, you’ll get close to 100% back, after you’ve hit the threshold. Obviously this will happen sooner if both you and your partner are registered together as a family. As I said, we didn’t do this until 2008, yet we’d been together since 2000. It doesn’t matter if you’re not married either, as we were still a couple of years away from walking down the aisle.

The Medicare Safety Net covers a range of out of hospital doctor visits and tests covered by the Medicare Benefits Schedule. These include:

  • Healthcare professional consultations
  • blood tests
  • CT scans
  • pap smears
  • psychiatry
  • radiotherapy
  • tissue biopsies
  • ultrasounds
  • x-rays

While this isn’t a conversation piece for your first date, it’s certainly a salient one if you’re in a serious commitment.

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