2000-03-29 / Seniors



By John Toscano

It’s Almost Final: 65-69 Workers Won’t Have To Give Back Some S.S. Benefits

Senior citizens who previously received benefits under the Home Energy Assistance Program, known as HEAP, will be getting a check in the mail soon for some additional aid because of sharply rising fuel oil prices.

And because of the increasing prices, the HEAP guidelines have been changed in order to make more seniors eligible for the assistance.

The one-time bonus and the new eligibility guidelines were made possible by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the City council passing a bill to add $5 million in benefits under the HEAP program.

If you’ve never received HEAP benefits, you can get them now if:

*You live alone and your monthly income is $1,454 or less.

*You’re in a two-person household and total income is $1,901 monthly or less.

*If your family is larger, the new income limits increase, so your family may still be eligible.

To be sure of the eligibility requirements and whether you might qualify, call the city Department for the Aging at (212) 442-1000. Do it quickly because applications, in English or Spanish, are being accepted now, and when the HEAP money runs out, this year’s program will close.

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Pictured at the drug price protest (l. to r.) are Senator John Marchi (R–Staten Island), the prime sponsor in the Senate, Lafayette (D–Jackson Heights), the prime sponsor in the Assembly, and Senator Nancy–Larraine Hoffmann. Also in the picture are members of the Joint Committee for Older Adults (JPAC).


The question of whether seniors should be allowed to continue to drive their automobiles keeps coming up in newspapers and magazines, as well it should. The issue involves, on the one hand, a person’s individual rights as opposed to the public’s (and the individual’s) safety.

Underlying the issue is the question whether aging and the natural diminishing of motor skills, reaction speed, eyesight and overall physical health should rule out individuals’ right to drive at a certain age to protect the public and the individual drivers, as well.

A recent issue of the monthly magazine published by the American Automobile Association (AAA) offered an interesting position. We quote:

"What New York needs is the kind of law adopted by other states that focuses on health—not age—in determining whether an individual’s driving privilege should be re-evaluated and possibly revoked."

In support of this position, the article points out that the American Medical Association (AMA) voted recently to make a change in its sacred confidentiality rule by allowing doctors to notify Departments of Vehicles" of medical factors that make their patients unsafe drivers." The radical change resulted from doctors’ frustration from having "to stand by helplessly as people with conditions ranging from senile dementia to alcoholism walked out of their offices and into their cars."

Along the same lines, some states have laws which offer confidentiality and protection from libel suits to anyone who reports an impaired driver to a DMV. For peoples’ protection, the laws also include severe penalties for anyone filing a false or fraudulent report.

These laws also include, as they should, the reported driver’s right to be tested to disprove the allegations.

We thought this was an interesting and thought-provoking approach to a very important and prevalent issue. We welcome any comments from our readers.


Reacting to the various plans that have been proposed to add prescription drug benefits to Medicare coverage since President Bill Clinton issued the first of them last year, members of his own Democratic Party in the United States Senate have now unveiled a plan which is seen as a compromise that might have a good chance of being approved.

As you might recall, the president proposed giving Medicare beneficiaries the option of joining and paying a premium of $25 a month (that’s $300 a year). Under the plan the federal government would pay half the member’s prescription drug costs up to a maximum of $1,000 a year in 2003, rising to $2,500 a year in 2009. It would also assist people with very high drug costs, but no details were given on this aspect.

The Senate Democrats’ plan, like the president’s, would be open to every Medicare member. Rather than the $300 annual premium the president would charge, members would instead pay an annual deductible, say $250, before receiving any other benefits.

The Senate plan would have the government pay an increasing share of a members costs as those costs increased. For instance, the member would pay half the prescription costs up to $750, but above that, the member’s share would decrease as the government’s contribution increases.

If a member’s costs exceeded $3,000 in a given year, the government would pay all the costs over that amount.

Under one controversial proposal in the Senate plan, Medicare members with incomes of over $75,000 (individual) or $100,000 (couple) would pay a higher initial cost in order to get into the program. In the past, proposals such as higher premiums for richer members raised such a fuss and furor that they had to be abandoned.

Summing up, the Senate Democrats say their plan would saddle Medicare members with lesser costs than the president’s plan and still pay attention to protecting low and moderate income members. Stay tuned.


What sounds like an interesting and pleasant day trip has been planned by the Kew Gardens Community Center, 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, Kew Gardens for this Friday, Mar. 24th. The destination is Boscobel Estate and Gardens and the outing includes a Hudson River cruise. Fee is $60. Call (718) 268-5960 for details.


AARP Chapter number 2889 will meet on Wednesday, Apr. 5th at 12:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, 54-05 Seabury St., Elmhurst. A lecture on impressionism and post-impressionism from the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be presented.

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