By John Toscano
Assembly Dems Say ‘Expand EPIC’ Drug Discounts, Save More Seniors More $
Stressing that the "skyrocketing cost of medicine represents a tremendous burden for seniors living on fixed incomes," the state Assembly Democratic leadership has proposed a widening of the EPIC drug discount plan for seniors, Assemblymember Ivan Lafayette reported last week.
Citing the severity of the problem for seniors, Lafayette explained that it was the reason the majority Democrats included the $308 million EPIC program expansion in their 2000 budget proposal.
The budget proposal coincides with legislation sponsored by Lafayette, a Jackson Heights Democrat, to prevent drug manufacturers from charging New York’s consumers for overpriced prescription medication.
EPIC,the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program was enacted about a decade ago. It provides that seniors whose incomes not exceed a specified level can be covered under the program and pay discount prices for prescriptions.
Presently, the income ceiling is $24,500 for married couples and $18,500 for single persons. The Democrats’ budget proposal would lift the ceiling to $50,000 for married couples and to $35,000 for single persons. If approved, it would make about 160,000 more seniors eligible for the program, Lafayette said, doubling the present enrollment.
Under Lafayette’s other proposal, drug manufacturer’s would not be permitted to charge New York state residents more for a prescription drug than they charge for that same drug in other regions.
Because of the differences in drug prices, New Yorkers have been going to Canada to stock up on certain drugs because the medications are sold at lower prices there.
Two seniors advocacy groups, the Public Affairs Committee for Older Adults and the Citywide Advocates for Seniors, have made Lafayette’s bill one of their top priorities because of the benefit it would provide for seniors across the state.
"SENIORS SPEAK OUT":The high cost of prescription drugs has also drawn the attention of the Queens Interagency Council on the Aging, which coordinates activities for the various senior advocacy groups.
The council, in conjunction with the New York State-Wide Senior Action Council, has set up a "Seniors Speak Out" meeting where seniors will have the opportunity to speak with Congressmembers from all over the state on high-priced drugs, HMO coverage and the future of Medicare.
The meeting, open to the public is set for Monday, Apr. 17th, at 2 p.m. at Queens Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Kew Gardens, Room 213.
Among those invited for the dialogue with the public are United States Senators Daniel Moynihan and Charles Schumer, Congressmembers Joseph Crowley, Anthony Weiner, Gary Ackerman, Gregory Meeks, Carolyn Maloney, Nita Lowey, and Nydia Velazquez and Assemblymember Lafayette.
HEAP APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE:City Councilmember Karen Koslowitz (D–Forest Hills) announced that applications to secure benefits under the HEAP program are available by contacting her district office at (718) 544-3212. The program partially covers seniors’ fuel costs.
AARP MEETING:An afternoon of musical entertainment is on the program of the AARP, Jackson Heights Chapter number 991, when it meets on Wednesday, Apr. 19th at 1 p.m. at the Community United Methodist Church, 81-10 35th Ave., Jackson Heights. Mike McClenan and the Jazz Elders will present the music of the 1940s and ‘50s.