A gloomy prescription – eligibility to change

Your entitlement to free drugs may be about to change, says Paul Lewis

Senior customer showing prescription to female doctor. Cashier is assisting elderly woman at checkout counter. They are standing at pharmacy.

The Government is planning to raise the eligibility age for free prescriptions in England from 60 to 66. It will rise again from April 2026 when the state pension age increases further.

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The new rules are likely to begin on 1 April 2022. The Government’s preferred plan is to allow anyone already aged 60 or more before that date to keep free prescriptions.  However, it is also considering taking the exemption away at once from anyone who is under 66, in which case people aged 60 to 65 would have to start paying until they reach the age of 66.

The charge in England is currently £9.35 for each item.  Other exemptions include people aged 16 or less (or under 19 in fulltime education), pregnant women and those with a child under one.  There are also exemptions for those with certain medical conditions.   But some other long-term conditions are not exempt, including Parkinson’s, kidney disease, asthma and arthritis.

There are also exemptions for those on certain means-tested benefits including universal credit – in that case only if they earn less than £435 a month (£935 if they have children or limited work capability). The Government estimates that 70% of 60- to 65-year-olds will have to pay after the change.

People who are not exempt and need 12 or more prescriptions in a year can save money by buying a £108.10 pre-payment certificate covering 12 months (£30.25 for a three-month certificate). The Government estimates the average cost for 60- to 65-year-olds will be between £50 and £100 a year. The change is expected to raise about £200 million a year.

People caught not paying for a prescription when they should do so face a fine of £100. It’s not known what concessions there may be for those caught out around the time of the change.

You can comment on the plans until 2 September 2021 at gov.uk – search “prescription age”.

Paul Lewis presents Money Box on Radio 4. 

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