Jeremy Vine: Caller slams calls to scrap free over 60s prescriptions
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The Government is looking into aligning eligibility for the freebie benefit with the state pension age. Currently, residents in England are able to access free prescriptions once they turn 60 years of age. However, this consultation could mean the over 60s will have a longer wait until they receive this support.
What is the state pension?
The amount someone receives in their state pension is dependent on their National Insurance record.
An individual needs 35 years worth of contributions under their belt to get the full new state pension.
Currently, the full new state pension is £185.15 per week while the full basic state pension is a weekly payment of £141.85.
As it stands, the state pension age is 66 but this is set to increase to 67 in the next couple of years.
Who is eligible for free prescriptions?
Despite over 60s in England being able to use this benefit, the Government has consulted on hiking the eligibility threshold to the state pension age.
It should be noted that residents in Scotland and Wales can get free prescriptions on the NHS no matter what age they are.
On top of this, under 16s and those between the ages of 16 and 18 in higher education can claim the benefit, as long as the latter group is in higher education.
If the Government carries out this state pension change, millions of people will lose immediate access to this vital support, but the matter is yet to be decided.
How much are prescriptions?
In England, prescriptions are priced at £9.35 per item on the NHS. This can be particularly expensive for those who have multiple medications to take.
Many people purchase a Prepayment Certificate (PPC) if they need more than three items in 3 months, or 11 items in 12 months.
A PPC on the NHS would cost someone £30.25 for three months or £108.10 for a 12-month period.
This certificate could be useful for over 60s at risk of losing free prescriptions due to the rumoured state pension change.
Reacting to the Government’s consultation, Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams noted how “unfair” such a policy shift would be on the most vulnerable.
She explained: “This policy proposal seems all the more unfair because prescriptions are free for everyone in Scotland and Wales.
“There’s a strong public health case for heading in that direction here in England too.
“Instead, our Government wants to do the opposite: make many more people pay for their medicines, and at an age when it’s all the more important they take them, to control conditions that left untreated can lead to really serious medical problems, piling more pressure onto the NHS.
“If ever there was a self-defeating policy, this is it, and we know that many medical experts agree with us.”
Speaking to Express.co.uk, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Around 90 percent of community prescription items in England are free of charge, and people don’t pay if they are on a low income, over 60 years old, 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 with the state pension age.
“We are considering the responses carefully and will respond in due course.”
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