AUSTRALIA - Medicare will be responsible for the early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds after new legislation was introduced into Australia's Parliament this week.
Medicare Australia, which administers the national health programme on behalf of the Government, has been managing early release claims for almost six months, under delegation from the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA).
At present, APRA is still responsible for administering the early release of superannuation on compassionate grounds. However, this function does not fit well with APRA's role as a prudential regulator, and has been undertaken by Medicare Australia under delegation.
The Government said this function would be administered more cost effectively following its formal transfer to an agency which has an efficient customer support infrastructure.
Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten said: "It makes sense, given their experience in managing electronic business transactions and greater focus on customer service, to transfer the function permanently.
"There is significant potential to streamline the programme with the ultimate beneficiaries from this transfer being those superannuation fund members experiencing undue hardship because of their personal circumstances.
Under Australian law, member's preserved superannuation benefits may be released before retirement age in strictly limited circumstances. These include compassionate grounds release, which covers expenses in respect of medical treatment, medical transport, modifications necessary for the family home or motor vehicle due to severe disability, palliative care and funeral expenses. Funds may also be released to prevent the foreclosure of a mortgage or exercise of a power of sale over the member's principal place of residence.
More than A$1.5m ($1.6m) was released in compassionate payments in the 2010/11 financial year, with an average amount of A$11,316.
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