2000-12-27 / Seniors

Drug Savings Program Ignored By Most Seniors, Hevesi Says


Although New York City seniors are getting zapped with mind boggling prescription drug costs, forcing some to forego necessary medications because they can’t afford them, most elderly people have failed to reach out for help offered by the state’s EPIC discount drug program, according to city Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

A survey of 650 seniors by Hevesi’s office shows that "at least 10 percent of seniors surveyed were not taking vital medications because they could not afford to. The survey also showed that seniors usually spend three times as much for medications than the rest of the population and 10 percent of those surveyed spent over $150 a month on prescription drugs. There’s a definite need for help, as we all know."

Yet, "while there is a state prescription drug insurance program that can assist the elderly with drug costs," Hevesi points out, "only 33 percent of the eligible seniors we interviewed were actually enrolled."

We can’t understand why. But if you’re among the 67 percent of eligible seniors not taking advantage of the program, there’s now an added incentive to enroll—more people are eligible for it and the savings are bigger than ever.

"Beginning Jan. 1st, just five days from now, you can enroll in the better-than-ever EPIC program," Hevesi said.

"If your annual income is as high as $35,000 (single) or $50,000 (married couples) you can get in the program and possibly save up to 50 percent of what you’re now spending," Hevesi says.

We’ve printed details of the program before, but we think there’s good reason to repeat them since, as Hevesi’s survey shows, so many seniors are not taking advantage of it.

The new EPIC program offers a fee program for lower income seniors and a deductible program for those with higher incomes.

The fee program covers single seniors with annual incomes up to $20,000 and married couples with joint annual income no higher than $26,000. Benefits and savings are then based on the person’s or couple’s actual income level.

The deductible program is designed for singles with annual income between $20,000 and $35,000 and for married seniors with joint annual income ranging from $26,000 to $50,000. There is no annual fee. You will pay the full price of prescriptions until you meet an annual deductible. When this is reached, you pay only a $3 to $20 co-payment for your medications, depending on their price.

To give an idea of how much a deductible cost might be, Hevesi says "A single person earning $25,000 would have a $750 annual deductible, while a married couple with a combined income of $30,000 would have a $725 annual deductible." EPIC keeps track of how much each senior has spent and notifies them when they have met their deductible, Hevesi added.

You are not eligible for EPIC if you receive full Medicaid benefits or if you have better prescription insurance coverage.

So if you are 65 or older, are not enrolled in medicaid and have high prescription costs, "I encourage you to get more information about EPIC," Hevesi said. Call the toll-free Help Line at 800-332-3742, or write to EPIC at P.O. Box 15018, Albany, N.Y. 12212-5018.

Consider EPIC as a nice holiday present you can give yourself and feel the joy from it for the whole year.

MORE BAD NEWS: As bleak as the situation with prescription drug costs is, it can get worse, and it reportedly will in the near future. There are reports that the city’s health and Hospitals Corporation, which runs Queens Hospital and Elmhurst Hospital Centers, among others, will soon start charging elderly and other uninsured patients more for the drugs they are prescribed. This fee could amount to $10 for each new prescription or refill, up to a total of $50 for five or more medicines.

Jane Zimmerman, HHC spokesperson, said the details are being worked out.

Zimmerman attributed the imposition of charges to increases in the prices HHC paid for drugs this year. She said the bill went up $15 million, or 16 percent. The corporation provided prescriptions for more than 560,000 uninsured New Yorkers this year, she added.

AARP MEETING: AARP Jackson Heights Chapter number 991 will hold its first business meeting of the year next Wednesday, Jan. 3rd at 12:45 p.m. at the Community United Methodist Church, 81-10 35th Ave., Jackson Heights. Miss Zamira Setaro of Con Edison will be the speaker.

In closing we’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a Happy New Year!!

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