By John Toscano
‘New York, New York, It’s A Wonderful Town’—To Retire In
Declaring that "retiring in New York City is a very smarty move, "Deputy Mayor for Operations Joseph Lhota ticked off the reasons:" superb medical facilities, user-friendly public transportation system and more than 35 senior centers offering nutritious meals and recreational activities for the senior community."
Herbert Stupp, Commissioner at the Department for the Aging added a few other reasons: "the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE), shielding income-eligible seniors from rent increases; reduced fare MetroCards for easy transportation, and cost-free, specialized assistance in areas such as health insurance and legal matters."
"Our goal is to allow seniors to remain as independent and active as possible."
Lhota, speaking for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; and Stupp joined forces to announce the release of a new brochure, entitled "The Ultimate Retirement City." They did it on May 8th, proclaimed by the mayor to be Older Americans Day.
The brochure highlights the city’s unique neighborhoods; rich cultural life; many parks, squares and plazas; diverse restaurants; varieties of entertainment, and year-round festivals and parades.
To get a copy of "The Ultimate Retirement City," call the Department for the Aging at (212) 442-1111, or visit their web site at www.ci.nyc.ny.uslaging, or write to the department’s Public Affairs Office at 2 Lafayette St., Seventh Floor, New York, N.Y. 10007.
CITY, STATE RETIREES GAIN?Retirees from city and state jobs may soon be getting an annual increase in their monthly pension checks in the form of a cost of Living Adjustment, or COLA. Union leaders and some state legislators have been backing such a move for years, and the time seems right for it. The money is available, a special state task force recommended it and every top official in the state government is behind it.
Nine days ago, state Comptroller H. Carl McCall reported that the surging stock market has raised the state’s Common Retirement Fund to a total of $127 billion.
"Because the pension fund has done so well, and it has provided significant benefits for employers, it’s time we do something for retirees," McCall stated.
Days later, Governor George Pataki said he agreed with the Task Force on Public Employee Pension Systems, which recommended a permanent COLA.
Then last Tuesday, Republican state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver gave their blessings to the proposal when thousands of retirees from around the state rallied in Albany for the COLA.
The governor’s last words on the topic were: "with our healthy economy and the strong performance of the pension system, the timing is right to address the COLA situation, and I look forward to working with the legislature on this."
More than 800,000 current and former civil servants stand to benefit from it.
RX DRUG WATCH:Senate and House Democrats announced a very ambitious proposal for bringing prescription drug coverage under Medicare for 39 million elderly and disabled last week.
It’s more favorable for seniors than even President Bill Clinton’s proposal, which calls for recipients to pay a premium for the coverage. The Democratic lawmakers’ plan makes no mention of a premium.
Meanwhile, Republicans have not issued a proposal, except for news leaks which say the GOP plan would subsidize private insurance presumably bought by medicare members.
Under the Democrats’ plan, announced last week, the government would pay half of the first $2,000 of prescription drug costs beginning in 2002 and work up to paying half of the first $5,0000 by 2009.
Medicare would also help members who had very high drug costs paying for a person’s drugs after that person spent $3,000 or $4,000 of his or her own money for prescriptions. This plan would cost the government $50 billion a year from 2003 to 2010. In comparison, the president’s plan would cost Medicare $35 billion from 2006 to 2010.
Because the Republicans control both the House and Senate, there’s not much chance of either Democratic plan passing as is. But this is an election year and prescription drug costs are emerging as the major issue in the campaigns for both seniors and their children, who sometimes are saddled with their parents’ drug costs. Faced with possible loss of both the House and Senate, Republicans may be forced to deal with the Democrats on the Democrats’ terms. The issue also will have an impact on the presidential election.