People in certain other parts of the world have expressed the opinion that when it comes to healthcare, we in the United Kingdom have it made, and are living in a paradise of free, top-quality care for all. Most notably, many in the US who are fretting over the problems with the nascent Affordable Care Act (aka ACA, aka “Obamacare”) look upon the UK with envy. Some even seem to believe that, at least in regard to healthcare, we haven’t a worry in the world. Of course that is not quite true. We have a pretty solid system, but it isn’t perfect, and not everything is free. One item of concern for many is prescription drugs. Although prescriptions are free in the rest of the UK, most people in England have to pay. For those who do need to pay for prescriptions, you may benefit from the help of instant loans who could provide the essential funds you require.
You may already know this, but for the benefit of those who don’t, or who are new to these shores, you do not have to pay for your prescriptions if you are…
- Under 16 years old
- 16–18 years old but attending school full time
- 60 years or older
- A holder of a valid Medical Exemption Certificate for a number of chronic conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, etc.
- Pregnant or have had a baby in the last 12 months, and you have a valid Maternity Exemption certificate
- A holder of an HC2 certificate (which is awarded on the basis of low income)
- A holder of a War Pension Exemption Certificate
- A recipient of income related benefits including: Pension Credit, Income Based Job Seekers Allowance and Income Support.
All others are subject to paying a flat fee for their prescription meds. The idea behind the flat-fee system is to make any necessary medicine affordable to virtually everyone, regardless of the medicine’s normal cost. Yet these fees can quickly add up for those on multiple prescriptions over the long term.
As of 1 April 2013, each prescribed item covered under the National Health Service (NHS) – regardless of nature or quantity – costs £7.85. You can purchase a prescription pre-payment certificate (or PPC) for £104.00; this covers unlimited prescriptions for a period of twelve months. Alternatively, you can buy three monthly PPCs for £29.10. The NHS Business Services Authority handles the sale of PPCs to the public. This doesn’t seem like a huge amount, but as mentioned above, it can really add up for some people. Here are some tips for keeping costs down.
1. Do consider a “season ticket” – a prepaid certificate – if you have more than one prescription a month. It just makes sense. As noted above, these are unlimited passes that cover all NHS prescription fees for a set period. For a mere £29.10 for three months, or £104 for a year, it could prove to be a real bargain.
2. Ask your doctor for a bigger prescription. If you think you might need a medication some time down the road, ask your physician if he or she can prescribe a larger quantity. For certain types of medications the law might prevent your doc from doing this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
3. Choose over-the-counter if it’s available, and use generic or store brand if available. Many painkillers and dermatology creams are available over the counter; ask your doctor if a prescription is really necessary. You should be able to save at least a few pounds if you can purchase over the counter versus prescription – and even more if you choose generic or store brand over name brand.
4. For drugs not covered by the NHS, always compare prices. The NHS does not cover every prescription drug; for example, drugs such as Viagra (for erectile dysfunction) are not generally covered, and certain cancer drugs or experimental drugs may not be either. For these private prescriptions, pharmacies can set their own prices, so do your comparison-shopping, and don’t overlook online pharmacies (just check them out and make sure they are legitimate).
The good news is that some things are free anyway.
Prescribed contraceptives are free, as are most treatments for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and medications personally administered by a GP. And all medicines administered in hospitals or NHS walk-in centres are free, unless you are prescribed something to take away. That’s certainly something to make our Yank friends sigh with envy; we hear that in US hospitals, patients are “nickled and dimed” into the poorhouse, often being charged up to twenty-five dollars for a single dose of aspirin or acetaminophen.
The bottom line is that even though things are not perfect here, they could be a lot worse. And there are plenty of options if you need help paying for your prescriptions. For more information, including information on how to apply for exemptions, see the government site at: http://www.nhs.uk/nhsengland/Healthcosts/pages/Prescriptioncosts.aspx