Experts have suggested that entitlement to free prescriptions for over 60s could end in April. This comes as the government tries to align the free prescription age with the state pension age, which stands at 66 and is set to rise further over the coming few years.
This means that millions of older people aged 60-65 could lose their entitlement to free prescriptions. With the cost of prescriptions rising to £9.35 last year, this could substantially negatively impact the finances of many who have to take regular medication.
Many older people rely on the right to free prescriptions, particularly those with health issues. However, according to some experts, people may have to wait until they reach the age of 66 to get this benefit after April. This age could increase further as the state pension age rises.
This change will cause outrage among many people and organisations, with many already outraged about the scheduled changes to the state pension age. Aligning services such as free prescriptions with pension age increases is likely to cause a considerable amount of controversy.
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Changes could come at the start of April
One expert, Sarah Coles from Hargreaves Lansdown, said changes would likely come into effect at the start of April. This is the date when prescription charges are usually increased.
She said, “At the moment there’s no charge for over 60s but that could soon change. If it does, it would drag millions of people into having to pay for essential medicines.”
With living costs rocketing, many people are already struggling financially. Rising costs such as travel, food, and energy have left many people facing challenges regarding their finances. For those who currently get free prescriptions and are aged 60-65, the additional financial burden of paying for prescriptions could become a serious issue.
A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care recently said, “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.”
Considering other options
While the changes could mean millions of older people lose access to free prescriptions, experts have advised those affected to check if they fall into any other free-prescription category. Various groups are entitled to free prescriptions, and those who fall into any of these groups may still be able to get their medication free of charge after any changes occur.
Among the groups that can claim free prescriptions are those on certain benefits such as Income Support or Universal Credit. Those with HC2 certificates to cover health costs can also avoid having to pay, as can those with disabilities who have a medical exemption certificate.
Using prescription prepayment certificates
One of the other options that those affected by the changes can consider is purchasing a prescription prepayment certificate. This could ultimately save them money based on the current cost of prescriptions, particularly if prices increase again this year.
At present, the cost of these certificates means that prescriptions will end up costing certificate-holders around £2.00 per week. For those who have to get prescription medications regularly, this could provide a more cost-effective solution if they do lose their right to free prescriptions.
With these certificates, holders can get as many NHS prescriptions as needed for a set price. This could help those who have to pay for their prescriptions save money and budget more effectively. The certificates can be purchased online on a 3-monthly or 12-monthly basis.