Free prescription age may change – but 15 groups do not have to pay

Jeremy Vine: Caller slams calls to scrap free over 60s prescriptions

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The Government has undertaken a consultation to see whether the free prescription age – currently 60 – should rise to align with state pension age. If this were to occur, it would only have an impact in England, as in the rest of the UK people can get a free prescription regardless of age.

While no decisions have been announced, many of those aged 60 to 65 have expressed worry. 

People who are not exempt from prescription charges will have to pay the £9.35 per item fee – but there are already 15 groups who do not have to meet the charge.

Over-60s are the first group eligible for free prescriptions, but this may change in the future.

Exemptions depend on age for two other groups of people – under 16s and individuals between the ages of 16 and 18 who are in full-time education.

Pregnant women are also exempt from prescription charges, or those who have had a baby in the past 12 months.

This is the case as long as these individuals have a valid maternity exemption certificate.

Those who are registered disabled and unable to leave the home can be exempt, but they need a valid medical exemption.

Those with this exemption certificate who have a specified medical condition make up another group who could be entitled to a free prescription.

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NHS inpatients will not have to pay charges when it comes to prescriptions.

If a person has a prescription for their accepted disability under the war exemption scheme, they will not have to pay.

Benefit claimants will not have to meet the exemption charge, it should also be noted.

The eligible benefits falling under this exemption are: 

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit Guarantee Credit
  • Universal Credit – as long as earnings during the last assessment were £435 or less, or £935 or less if the benefit includes an element for a child, or the person has limited work capabilities.

Those who have a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs should not have to pay under the HC2 scheme.

Finally, if a person has a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate, they should be entitled to a free prescription.

This will be the case if the person receives Child Tax Credits or Working Tax Credits with a disability element, and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less.

If changes were to go ahead, which are not confirmed yet, then over-60s may find they are eligible for a free prescription through another exemption.

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Those who are not may have to wait for their entitlement.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson previously told they have frozen prescription charges to recognise the pressures of the cost of living crisis.

The spokesperson added: “Around 90 percent of community prescriptions in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60, or have certain medical conditions. 

“The upper age exemption has not changed since 1995 and that is why we have consulted on restoring the link between this and the state pension age. 

“No final decisions have been made and we will publish the consultation response in due course.”

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