By John Toscano
Fight For Lower Rx Costs
Continues; MetroCard Bus Sked
While recent reports from Washington say President Bill Clinton and the pharmaceutical industry may be on track in agreeing on a plan to help relieve seniors of their prescription drug burden, local lawmakers continued to pound on the issue of high drug costs for seniors.
Last Friday, Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Elmhurst) and Assemblymember Ann Margaret Carrozza (D–Bayside) conducted a forum in Whitestone, where the main complaint aired was that seniors pay, on average, more than twice as much for drugs than the drug industry charges "preferred" customers, such as hospitals, (HMO’s) Health Maintenance Organizations and the federal government.
Meanwhile, Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Brooklyn/Queens) issued the results of a study which showed, among other things, that dog owners pay $6.36 for a month’s supply of the heart failure drug Lanoxin for a sick pet while humans pay $25.65 for a month’s supply of the same drug.
Weiner said the situation was the same with other drugs used by both humans and animals and gave detailed examples of the unequal costs. He stated that "over 13 million seniors pay entirely out–of–pocket for expensive prescription drugs while dogs and cats get popular medicines for a song."
Both Weiner and Crowley are supporting legislation to provide some government subsidy to seniors to cover some of their drug costs.
At the Crowley–Carrozza forum at the Greater Whitestone Civic Association Senior Center, the two legislators also discussed the solvency of Medicare and Social Security and crimes against seniors. Crowley is sponsor of a bill aimed at strengthening federal laws against elder abuse. This would include background checks for people who work in nursing homes, health agencies and hospice care programs.
Weiner is co–sponsor of a bill which would extend Medicare to partially cover prescription costs. It would cover 80 percent of generic drugs costs and 90 percent of sole source medications and require beneficiaries to pay a $250 yearly deductible. President Clinton has announced his own proposal to cover prescriptions under Medicare and it also requires seniors to pay a premium.
Attesting to the high costs seniors pay for lifesaving prescription drugs, the AARP says a study it did shows seniors spent "on average about a fifth of their income on health care" and about the same for prescription drugs. The problem is even worse for low–income seniors who don’t qualify for Medicaid; this group spends about half their income on health care expenses, the AARP says.
METROCARD HELP:New York City Transit has issued its February schedule for the MetroCard Bus/Van visits to neighborhoods throughout Queens. Seniors and persons with disabilities may apply there for the reduced fare MetroCard or get applications to receive a card.
Applicants must present photo identification and proof that they are 65; persons with disabilities must have a valid Medicare card and also a valid federal/state issued photo ID in order to be immediately processed. Any disabled persons without a Medicare card must have their doctor complete the physician’s section of the application. Beside applying for a new card, anyone may add value to their current MetroCard. Heres the schedule:
Forest Hills:71st (Continental) Ave. and Queens Boulevard; Tuesdays, Feb. 1st and 15th, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. both days.
Rego Park:Queens Boulevard and 63d Road; also Feb. 1st and 15th, 2 to 3 p.m. both days.
Jamaica:United Cerebral Palsy 81–15 164th Street off Goethals Avenue; also Feb. 4th and 18th, from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Maspeth:Grand Avenue and 69th Street, also Thursday, Feb. 10th, 1 to 3 p.m.
Bayside:Bay Terrace Shopping Center, Bell Boulevard and 24th Avenue; also Feb. 14th and 28th, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Queens Village:(SNAP of Eastern Queens, 80-45 Winchester Boulevard, Bldg. Number 4; Friday, Feb. 18th, 9 to 10:30 a.m.
Kew Gardens:Queens Borough President’s Office, 120-55 Queens Blvd.; Monday, Feb. 29th, 10 a.m. to noon.
NUTRITION EDUCATION:In an effort to maintain a continuing focus on nutrition education, the Middle Village Adult Center at 69-10 75th St., Middle Village, is offering "Nutrition Education 2000," a program of talks spread over the next five months.
Conducting the program will be Mindy Rosenthal, a teacher, and her next scheduled talk is Thursday, Feb. 17th on "Food Labels: What Do They Mean?" The following Thursdays at 11:15 a.m., the schedule is: Mar. 16th, "Vitamins and Supplements: Do They Really Help; Apr. 6th, "The Latest on Herbal Supplements;" May 18th, "How to Cook for One—and Enjoy It;" and June 15th, "Weight Management—Don’t Go Overboard In Either Direction."
HELPING FRAIL SENIORS:The Adult Day Services Program at the Forest Hills Community House, 108-25 62d Dr., Forest Hills, is looking for volunteers to work with mentally and physically frail seniors in a non–institutional setting.
The program, supervised by Naomi Altman, offers structured support to that group of elderly who would otherwise be homebound and alone. Volunteers help the program members with arts and crafts, escort them on trips to cultural events movies and museums, and assist them with social activities and game sessions.
For information, call Billy Wong or Dennis Redmond at (718) 592-5757, ext. 223.
SELFHELP ACTIVITIES:Entertainers Jack Hyman and Myrna Lope will perform today, Thursday, Jan. 27th at 1:15 p.m. at the Selfhelp Austin Street, Senior Center, 106-06 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills. Also on the entertainment menu here: Wednesday, Feb. 16th at 1:15 p.m. a concert sponsored by Trinity Church.
On the serious side, Regine of Cornell University will give a talk on nutrition on Tuesday, Feb. 22d; and on Thursday, Feb. 24th, there’ll be a talk on the EPIC discount prescription drug program at 11 a.m.
The center will be open on Sunday, Feb. 27th for a surprise program. For information, call (718) 520-8197.
AEROBICS:Stay in shape with the aerobics classes offered to all seniors on Tuesdays from 9 to 10 a.m. and Thursday from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Rego Park, Senior Center. (Lost Battalion Hall) at 93-29 Queens Blvd., Rego Park.