State pension warning as free NHS prescriptions age could be increased to 66
NHS explain what a Prescription Prepayment Certificate is
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Reaching State Pension age means Britons can unlock the payment to which they are entitled, however, older age milestones often come with other forms of support. At present, even earlier than the state pension age, people in England are able to get a free prescription at the age of 60. Exemptions are also applicable to those under the age of 16 or young people who remain in higher education.
Understandably, free prescriptions are particularly important to many older people.
The entitlement means these individuals do not have to worry about additional health costs for their needs.
However, the Government has today launched a consultation which is debating whether the cut-off point for a free prescription should be raised to 66 years old.
This, of course, would be in line with the state pension age, but could see more people having to wait longer for the entitlement.
One option posited is to introduce a grace period meaning that those aged 60 to 65 at the point of any change can continue to receive a free prescription.
The proposals appear to be a way of potentially clawing back significant sums for the NHS which has been under pressure due to the pandemic.
Prescription charges, the Government says, are an important contribution to the NHS’ budget.
Between 2015/16 and 2019/20, charges from prescriptions racked up a total of £2.8billion for the NHS.
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But it is estimated this change could bring in up to £300million more for the NHS by the 2026/27 year.
Currently, the prescription charge is £9.35 per item, however, those who need more regular medication may benefit from a pre-payment plan.
This pre-payment certificate usually costs £108.12 for a total period of 12 months.
Health Minister James Bethell commented on the matter.
He said: “We are committed to improving patient care and supporting the NHS with the funding it needs to recover from this pandemic.
“The upper age exemption for free prescriptions used to align with the state pension age, but that link has been lost over the years.
“Prescription charges are an important source of income for the NHS, and the costs of providing free prescriptions continue to increase with our ageing population.
“I encourage anyone with views on our proposals to share them through the consultation response form, available online on GOV.UK.”
At present, in England, people receive free prescriptions upon turning 60 years of age.
The last time this was changed was in 1974 for women, and 1995 for men.
But another matter which has to be taken into consideration is the ever-rising state pension age which is likely to impact millions.
Due to the increase in life expectancy, the Government has plans to increase the state pension age in the future.
Between 2037 and 2039, the state pension age is planned to increase for both men and women to 68.
If the consultation were to go ahead and become policy, it could mean people are forced to wait even longer to receive free prescriptions.
The consultation period is set to run for eight weeks to allow Britons to contribute as much as possible.
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