Free NHS prescriptions to end from April? What you need to know
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Daily Express readers have blasted the plans but many don’t know how and when they will be affected. Here are three myths and misunderstandings about the proposed changes, that need clearing up now so people know who will and won’t be affected.
MYTH ONE: The changes are already in force.
Right now, nothing has changed. If you qualify for free NHS prescriptions, you will continue to do so until the Government says otherwise.
Last year, Ministers launched a consultation process on plans to scrap rules that allow people to get free NHS prescriptions when they turn 60.
It argued that many people continue to work into their 60s, and can therefore afford to pay.
The proposals were slammed by campaign groups, with Age UK calling them “a bitter pill to swallow for millions”.
The consultation closed on 3 September and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) is now analysing the results.
Ministers have said they will make a decision “in due course”. There is speculation that the changes will come into force from April 1, which is the date NHS prescription charges usually increase.
Prescription charges are also likely to rise from today’s £9.35 on that date. As yet, though, we don’t know for sure. It’s carry on as usual, for now.
MYTH TWO. Pensioners will have to pay.
Many worried pensioners have posted comments which suggest the proposals will hit them.
They are understandably anxious but don’t have to be. Even if the plans go through, NHS prescriptions will continue to be free to those claiming the State Pension, which these days means from age 66.
Those aged between 60 and 65 may be affected. But not all of them.
MYTH THREE. Everyone under 66 will pay.
Again, this is a misunderstanding. Plenty of people aged between 60 and 65 will continue to get their prescriptions for free even if the changes do come into force.
Those on low incomes who claim certain state benefits shouldn’t have to pay. This includes those with a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate or who are eligible for Tax Credits, Working Tax Credits with a disability element, and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less.
Other exemptions include those who have a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs (HC2), or partial help (HC3).
The over 60s can also seek help under the NHS Low Income Scheme.
Those with medical exemption certificates for serious conditions such as cancer, diabetes and epilepsy are also eligible for free NHS prescriptions, and will retain their exemption as before.
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As will those who hold a valid war pension exemption certificate, where the prescription is for an accepted disability. All NHS inpatients will continue to get free prescriptions.
Despite these financial and medical exemptions, many aged between 60 and 65 who work WILL have to pay if the rules change.
This will come as yet another blow as the cost of living skyrockets and income tax and National Insurance gets more punitive.
They can limit the cost by taking out a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC), which costs £108.10 for a year of free prescriptions.
But they could still end up paying an extra £600 in total before they turn 66.
That will be a bitter pill to swallow indeed.
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