2001-07-18 / Seniors

By John Toscano

By John Toscano

A drug prescription savings plan for seniors which costs the federal government not a cent and doesn’t require Congressional approval has been proposed by President George W. Bush.

Under the plan, a senior citizen would be required to buy a discount card for $25 to get discounts between 10 and 30 percent on drug purchases.

The discount card program is the president’s second quick-fix attempt at offering relief from high prescription drug costs. An earlier plan proposed by Bush to give low income seniors immediate relief got nowhere.

The president made drug prescription relief and Medicare reform a firm part of his presidential campaign and issued a plan last Thursday. However, he has never proposed adding prescription drug benefits for all seniors under Medicare. Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate are getting ready tBush Favors Discount Drug Cards For Seniorso formulate legislation to add the benefit to Medicare.

Here’s how the discount card plan works: A senior pays $25 for a card and is entitled to discounts from 10 to 30 percent when buying prescription drugs through a private provider or a pharmacy. The program postulates that providers will pay less for drugs which they purchase from large pharmaceutical firms because they’re buying in bulk.

Many drug stores and pharmacists oppose the plan because they feel they are carrying most of the burden of offering lower-priced drugs.

Presently, about one-third of Medicare members have no drug coverage. Medicare HMOs provide coverage for about 14 percent of 40 million members.

DRUG IMPORT BILL OK’D BY CONGRESS: On another front in the effort to reduce drug prices, Congress last week passed a bill which authorizes private citizens to buy lower-cost drugs from overseas. The bill’s author Congressmember Gil Gutknecht, a Republican from Minnesota, said the bill will enable seniors "to import legal, Food and Drug Administration-approved, prescription drugs made in FDA approved facilities."

Gutknecht’s bill was opposed by the White House, the FDA and major drug companies mainly on the grounds that it is difficult to assure that safe drugs are being sent into the United States. This was the same reason a similar bill passed last year was not implemented by the Clinton and Bush Administrations.

Drug prices are cheaper overseas partly because other countries control prices differently than does the U.S. Also, overseas dealers can purchase drugs at discounts from American pharmaceutical firms and sell them back to U.S. citizens at a cheaper price.

Gutknecht said people overseas pay 30 to 70 percent less for the same drugs used by U.S. citizens.

METROCARD: Permanent MetroCard bus sites have been renewed in eastern Queens, City Councilmember Sheldon Leffler (D-Queens Village) announced. Sites and schedules for service are:

•Glen Oaks Shopping Center, Union Turnpike-260th Street, July 11 and 25 and Aug. 8 and 22 and Sept. 12 and 26, from 10 a.m. to Noon.

•Windsor Park at Bell Boulevard and 73rd Avenue, Aug. 8 and Sept. 12 from 1 to 3 p.m.

•Fran Hill Shopping Center, Hillside Avenue and Francis Lewis Boulevard, July 27, Aug. 24, and Sept. 28 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m.

•Key Food at Bell Park Manor, 220-46 Hillside Ave. on July 27, Aug. 24 and Sept. 28 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Leffler said he was pleased with the New York City Transit action because the areas do not have direct access to a subway where MetroCards can be renewed through machine transactions. He said he’s looking for other above ground sites because they are convenient for seniors and the disabled.

VIET VETS MEET: Vietnam Veterans of America, Queens Chapter 32, will have an open house and meeting on Friday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. at 88-61 76th Ave., Glendale. For more information, call Steve Jones at (718) 415-2745.

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