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How to get help with your health costs

Posted 06 June 2016 by Emily Bancroft

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Struggling to manage the cost of your healthcare? Find out what you could claim.

If you get certain benefits and you’re struggling with the cost of your healthcare, it can be really hard to cope. After all, if you’re already dealing with ill health, the last thing you want to think about is how you’re going to afford it.

But you might be able to claim help for specific health costs – depending on what you earn. Some of the schemes available will cover the cost of your healthcare completely, while others only offer partial help. Let’s have a look at the help that’s out there, whether you’re eligible and how you can get it.

What help is available?

The NHS Low Income Scheme (LIS) is for people in England, Scotland and Wales on a low income and who can’t afford the cost of their healthcare. You can apply for LIS if your total savings, investments or property is less than £16,000 in England or Scotland, or less than £23,250 if you live in a care home. Don’t worry – this limit doesn’t include the place where you live. If you live in Wales, the threshold is £16,000 or £24,000 for care home residents.

You can get help from LIS if you or your partner receives:

• Income Support,

• Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance,

• Income-related Employment and Support Allowance,

• Pension Credit Guarantee Credit, or

• Universal Credit.

You might still be able to get LIS if you don’t claim any of these benefits – the NHS will just need to look at your income and expenses and see if they think you need financial help.

LIS can help with the cost of:

• prescriptions,

• dental work,

• eye care,

• travel to health appointments, and

• wigs and fabric supports.

Fill in a HC1 form to apply for LIS – you can pick this up from your local Jobcentre Plus office or most NHS hospitals. If you qualify for LIS, you’ll either get a HC2 certificate which entitles you to “full help” or a HC3 certificate for “partial help”. Full help just means that you can get a lot of things from the NHS that you’d usually have to pay for completely free – including free prescriptions and travel to hospital. Partial help means you’ll get some money towards your healthcare costs but you’ll still have to pay part of it.

If you’ve not got one of the LIS certificates yet, you might be able to get a refund on some healthcare costs. You need to ask your pharmacist for form FP57 or HCS(R) if you live in Scotland when you’re paying for prescriptions – you won’t be able to get it at a later date. You can also get form HC5 to reclaim any other health costs. As soon as you get your LIS certificate, you’ll get any refunds you’re entitled to.

Other help

LIS isn’t the only help available for health costs – you might also be able to get some financial support if you claim Universal Credit. Before November 2015, anyone on Universal Credit could get help with their health costs. Now, you can only get it if:

• you earned £435 or less in your most recent assessment period, or

• you get the Universal Credit child element, the limited capability for work or work-related activity elements and you earned less than £935 in your most recent assessment period.

The rules around this are quite confusing so if you’re not sure whether you can get help with your health costs, you can get free and impartial information from the Money Advice Service.

If you use a computer regularly for work, you should be able to get a free eye test voucher from your employer. Get in touch with your HR department to find out your work’s policy on this.

Illness and debt

Dealing with problem debt can be really tough and if you’re trying to cope with illness on top of this, it can make things even harder. If you’re finding it difficult to keep your head above water, you should get in touch with your lenders to tell them about your situation. They might be willing to readjust your repayment plan so it’s more affordable or give you a break from repaying for a few months, or in some cases they can suspend interest and charges.

You can also get in touch with our trained advisors using one of the options on the left. They can tell you if a debt solution would be suitable for you if your debts have become unmanageable and they might be able to give you some general advice about coping with your finances.

If you want more advice about coping with your unmanageable debts when you’ve got a long-term illness, check out our blog on illness and debtillness and debt.

by Emily Bancroft

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To find out more about managing your money and getting free debt advice, visit Money Advice Service, an independent service set up to help people manage their money.