By John Toscano
Good Signs For Rx Help,
Tax Cut, As Surplus Grows
It’s beginning to look more and more like President Bill Clinton and Democratic and Republican lawmakers will work out a compromise during this year’s session to give Medicare members drug prescription coverage, cut everyone’s taxes, pass a balanced budget and reduce the national debt (which saves us all money).
Clinton and the Congress have come to a meeting of the minds over the past few months mainly on the basis of a huge surplus of funds in the federal treasury. How to use this bonanza had set off a loud quarrel among the top Democrats and Republicans.
The leaders were gradually ironing out their differences and grudgingly budging on their positions. Then last Tuesday there was a major development which should create even more good fellowship among the rival groups that will eventually decide the final compromise package.
The major helpful push was a report from the Congressional Budget Office that the federal surplus will reach $1.9 trillion—that’s trillion—over the next 10 years, much larger than had previously been anticipated. That’s $190 billion a year to play around with. More importantly, the surplus does not include the surplus that’s generated by payments into the Social Security fund each year. With so much of a general surplus around, Congress won’t have to borrow from the Social Security fund, as it usually does, so that improves the chances of the Social Security program being placed on a firmer footing.
With the large amount of extra money anticipated, it looks like President Clinton will give in to Republican demands for a tax cut and Republicans will then agree to the president’s plan to give Medicare members some prescription drug coverage. This will be a great boost for the 13 million Medicare members who have to reach into their pockets frequently to pick up a prescription at their local pharmacy. A tax cut won’t hurt, either.
Clinton started the ball rolling on the prescription drug coverage by proposing it about six months ago. It drew immediate opposition from Republicans and the pharmaceutical industry, which feared it would lead to drug price controls and cut into their huge profits. But gradually the drug makers, driven by a larger fear that the president would fight relentlessly for the prescription coverage and damage their image with the public, accepted the plan and the Republicans are falling into line, too.
So, barring some major economic downturn, which would crush the surplus expectations, the prospects seem very good for the eagerly awaited drug prescription coverage and a tax reduction.
BUSES FOR SENIORS:Non–profit organizations who wish to purchase buses to transport the elderly and disabled have the opportunity to do so now and the state Department of Transportation will pay 80 percent of the cost, state Senator George Onorato reports.
Applications for the program must be requested by Tuesday, Feb. 29th, Onorato said. Under the program, DOT will give out 90 grants for the bus purchases, or a total of $5.2 million Onorato added.
Over the past 25 years, Onorato said, DOT and the Federal Transit Administration have given out $66 million in grants which have enabled more than 250 community groups throughout the state to buy more than 800 buses. The vehicles are used to take seniors and the disabled to doctors’ visits, to recreational events and to and from senior centers to participate in programs, among other things.
For more information and an application contact Michael Baker, Passenger Transportation Division, New York State Department of Transportation, Governor Harriman State Office Building Campus, Bldg. 4, Room 134, Albany, N.Y. 12232–0414 (518-457-8335).
SAFE DRIVING:The Middle Village Adult Center at 69-10 75th St., Middle Village, has a full schedule of the AARP 55 Alive Driver Refresher Course which can help a driver to sharpen up his driver safety skills.
For February, the course is given on Wednesdays, Feb. 9th, 16, and 23d. In March it’s still on Wednesdays, Mar. 8th, 15th, 22d and 29th.
The eight–hour course is given in two four–hour sessions from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. To register, call Clem High at (718) 847-0859 or Stan Gottesman at (718) 805-2859 between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Do not call the center. You must attend both sessions in order to receive a certificate that can be submitted to your car insurance company and lower your auto insurance premiums.
WEDNESDAY FARE:At the Rego Park Senior Center the first Wednesday of the month means blood pressure screenings and a housing clinic. Blood pressure screenings at the center, 93-29 Queens Blvd., Rego Park, are taken from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.; the housing clinic starts at 1:30 p.m. It covers a wide range of topics. For more information, call Sandra Epelman at (718) 896-8511.
AARP MEETING:Members of AARP Chapter Number 1762 in Richmond Hill will hear a talk by investment counselor John Pastore at their next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 10th, at the Church of the Resurrection 85-09 118th St., Kew Gardens, at 1p.m. Pastore will speak on long term health care. Chapter 1762 meetings are held every second Thursday.