Free NHS prescriptions axed for over-60s. Who now pays – and who WON’T
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NHS prescriptions have been free for people aged 60 and over for more than 25 years, and ending that has sparked fury. Yet it is important to take a cool look at exactly who will pay if the change comes into force, and who won’t. You might be exempt.
The good news is that once you reach the State Pension age of 66, all your NHS prescriptions will continue to be free for the rest of your life. The Government has no plans to change this.
However, the qualifying age will almost certainly rise along with the State Pension, to 67 from 2026, and 68 thereafter.
Those aged between 60 and 65 will have to start paying under Government plans, but with plenty of exemptions.
For example, people on low incomes who receive certain benefits should continue to be eligible for free prescriptions.
To qualify, you and your partner must receive one or more the following State benefits: Income Support; Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance; Income-related Employment and Support Allowance; Pension Credit (Guarantee Credit) or Universal Credit.
You may also qualify if you are entitled to, or named on, a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate and are eligible for Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element, and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less.
Others will also continue to qualify for free prescriptions.
These include those who have a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2). People named on an NHS certificate for partial help with health costs (HC3) may also get prescriptions free.
The over 60s can also seek help under the NHS Low Income Scheme.
Those with certain medical problems are also eligible for free NHS prescriptions, regardless of their age.
If you qualify for a medical exemption certificate, then you should not have to pay the new charge.
Medical exemption certificates are issued if you have serious illnesses such as cancer, a permanent fistula, a form of hypoadrenalism such as Addison’s disease, diabetes, hypoparathyroidism, myasthenia gravis, myxoedema and epilepsy requiring continuous anticonvulsive therapy.
You may also get a medical exemption certificates if you have a continuing physical disability that prevents you from going out without assistance. However, temporary disabilities do not count, even if they last several months.
Those who hold a valid war pension exemption certificate, where the prescription is for an accepted disability, may also qualify for free prescriptions.
All NHS inpatients get free prescriptions.
Check Government website Gov.uk for further information.
If you do have to pay for regular prescriptions, you could reduce the impact with a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC).
This gives you free prescriptions at a cost of £30.25 for three months or £108.10 for a full year. The annual version will save people money if they need more than 11 items in that time.
You can pay by 10 monthly direct debit payments of £10.81.
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Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams has warned that scrapping free prescriptions will discourage many with long-term conditions from getting a diagnosis and sticking to their prescribed medication.
Laura Cockram, chair of the Prescription Charges Coalition, added: “Far from saving the NHS money, this proposal is likely to cost more and do lasting damage to the nation’s health.”
Even the Government accepts that some people may not take their prescribed medicines due to cost, or try to make them last longer, which could lead to increased hospital admissions, including A&E visits, and GP appointments
However, it argues that many people aged 60 to 65 remain in employment and can afford to meet the cost of their prescriptions.
Others will not have to pay anyway. Check to see if you are one of them.
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