NHS free prescription age may rise but 15 groups already do not have to pay

Martin Lewis offers advice on NHS prescriptions

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Free NHS prescriptions are one of the key cost exemptions for older people who live in England. If a person is not exempt, they will have to meet the £9.35 item charge, which has been frozen for this year.

However, current proposals are considering whether or not the upper age exemption for prescription charges should be aligned with the state pension age.

It would mean a substantial shift, rising the free prescription age from its current level of 60 years old to 66 and rising.

Consequently, millions could miss out on free prescriptions overnight, depending on how and if the Government decides to implement changes.

There are, however, several people who can already secure free prescriptions.

This is because the NHS has outlined 15 groups of people who do not have to meet the charge.

The first group are over 60s, but rules could be subject to change in the future.

There are two other groups where exemptions hinge on age – those under 16, and those aged between 16 and 18 who are in full-time education.

A fourth group of people exempt from prescription charges are pregnant women, or those who have had a baby in the past 12 months – as long as they have a valid maternity exemption certificate.

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People who are registered disabled and unable to go out are also exempt, but they must have a valid medical exemption.

Britons who have a specified medical condition with this exemption certificate can also get a free prescription.

In a similar sense, if a person has a prescription for their accepted disability under the war pension exemption scheme, they do not have to pay.

NHS inpatients are also a group who are exempt from prescription charges.

Those who claim certain benefits will not have to meet the English prescription charge.

These benefits 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 last assessment were £435 or less, or £935 or less if the benefit includes an element for a child or a person has limited capability for work

Individuals with a valid NHS tax credit exemption certificate will be able to get a free prescription also.

They can secure this certificate if they receive Child Tax Credits or Working Tax Credits with a disability element, and have income for tax credit purposes of £15,276 or less.

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Finally, people who get a valid NHS certificate for full help with health costs will not have to pay. This is known as HC2.

Over 60s may find they fit into another exempt group, and so will not have to meet prescription charges.

However, if changes do go ahead, then some will have no choice but to meet the payment.

The NHS has pointed Britons towards a simple way to find out if they are eligible for free prescriptions or help with health costs.

Their eligibility checker, available online, will provide people with the clarity they need on this. 

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