Free NHS prescriptions under threat for over 60s – the two ways you could be hit

Free NHS prescriptions to end from April? What you need to know

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Many households rely on free NHS prescriptions as a crucial “freebie” benefit to save their hard-earned cash to pay for utilities and mortgage bills. For years, those who reach the age of 60 in England are able to qualify for this particular benefit with the Government looking to assist older people in the country. In comparison, residents of Scotland and Wales are able to get free NHS prescriptions no matter their age as health care is a devolved matter in both nations.

As part of internal Government debates, questions have been raised about how should be eligible for free NHS prescriptions in England, with people likely to be hit in either one of two specific ways.

Recently, the Government has proposed aligning the eligibility for free NHS prescriptions in England with the state pension age.

This decision has proven to be controversial as many people who otherwise would have been able to get free medication for their ailments once they turned 60 will now have to wait longer if this proposal becomes law.

Currently, the state pension age is 66 years of age and is expected to rise even further in the years to come.

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Debating its options on its website, the Government states: “Option A is to raise the qualifying age for free prescriptions to the SPA (currently 66) for everyone

“This would mean that following changes to the Charges Regulations people aged 65 and under would have to pay for their prescriptions until they reach the age of 66, unless they qualified for another exemption.”

A valid medication exemption certificate can be awarded to people in England if they specified a medical condition which is recognised by the NHS.

Similarly, those who are pregnant or have a continued physical disability which affects their ability to move on a regular basis can also qualify for an exemption.

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Another way the Government may change peoples’ eligibility for free NHS prescriptions is by continuing to align it with the state pension age, but by also including a certain period of time for protection.

This would mean that those who lie within the 60 to 65 age demographic would be able to continue getting free medication for their conditions.

However, people who are under the age bracket will have to continue paying for their prescriptions via the NHS.

As of today, the current prescription charge for an individual item or piece of medication is £9.35.

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Alternatively, people can choose to purchase a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) to help them save money on their medication costs.

Currently, a three month PPC costs £30.25 for one person, while a 12 month PPC is £108.10.

Discussing this way of changing the eligibility rules, the Government states: “This would mean that anyone aged 60 and over when the changes to the Charges Regulations are implemented would continue to be exempt from prescription charges.

“Those aged 59 and under when the changes to the Charges Regulations are implemented would have to pay for their prescriptions until they reach the SPA (currently 66), unless they qualify for another exemption.”

According to the Government, both ways of changing free NHS prescriptions have their pros and cons which need to be weighed against the potential risk of going forward with such a change.

It is noted that the first option would help raise money for the NHS, particularly in a time where it needs money, however the Government believes there could be some “confusion about the rules” if this is implemented.

Specifically, the Government is concerned that certain individuals may continue to claim an age exemption, eventually getting penalty notices and charges as a result.

The second option is being considered as it would give people advanced notice of the change to free NHS prescriptions and they would need to start paying medication which they already get for free.

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