Reports Say Bush’s Discount Drug Card Saves Seniors Little
The General Accounting Office, (GAO) the investigative arm of Congress, reports that drug discount cards, which President George W. Bush wants seniors to use to save money on prescription drug purchases, do not bring significant savings.
A study done by the GAO which purchased drugs with discount cards and compared the prices to the same drugs bought without the cards, showed savings which averaged three to 10 percent.
Despite the meager savings, a Bush administration spokesman said the administration still intends to go ahead with the drug discount card program.
The president announced the plan last July as an interim step while Congress debated Medicare coverage of prescription drugs, but the plan was stopped by a judge who said it was not instituted legally.
The investigation’s findings on the low rate of savings the discount cards achieve will, no doubt, be used by the president’s opponents in the push for Medicare drug coverage that’s expected to come up in the new Congressional session.
According to the GAO study, Prilosec, a popular heartburn and ulcer relief medication, cost $115.79 using discount cards, but could be bought for as little as $110.69 in some pharmacies without the card. Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, cost $56.47 with the card and $59.54 without, a 5 percent savings. But Glucophage, used by diabetics, brought an almost 20 percent saving when bought with the discount card.
Alzheimer’s caregivers can now obtain an updated edition of the New York City Department for the Aging "A Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer’s disease," which is now available in English, Chinese, Russian and Spanish.
The 82-page booklet provides an essential reference to a wide range of topics in long-term care planning, DFTA Commissioner Herbert W. Stupp said.
"The Guide provides information to family members and professional service providers on medical and legal services, public entitlement programs, community-based services and alternative housing and nursing home placement," Stupp said.
"Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease is complicated and confusing. This Guide is a valuable aid that can help caregivers make informed decisions."
For a free copy of the Guide in any of the four languages listed, call the Department’s Public Affairs office during business hours at (212) 442-1111, write to: New York City Department for the Aging, Public Affairs, 2 Lafayette St., 7th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10007 or log on to the department’s website at www.nyc.gov/aging.
SPECIAL PHONE SYSTEM FOR THE BLIND: Stupp also reports that a few weeks after September 11, DFTA provided funding secured from the federal government to have a specially designed telephone system installed for blind and visually impaired persons. It was installed at a Manhattan-based agency called VISIONS, which provides programs and services for the blind.
Stupp explained that he was eager to have the special phone system installed since it allows blind and visually impaired volunteers to run the VISIONS helpline.
He said, "People who cannot see find standard office phones difficult to use. With these new phones, blind volunteers can participate more fully in the day-to-day running of VISIONS, thereby not only helping others, but also themselves."
In thanking DFTA for providing the new system, VISIONS Executive Director Nancy D. Miller stated, "In the days since September 11, it has become very important for blind seniors to be pro-active and feel they are contributing to make our city whole again."
Volunteers are trained to assist callers who have questions about programs and classes for the blind and to direct callers to social workers for information about benefits. Vols can also provide pertinent information in times of emergency.
The VISIONS Information helpline can be reached at (646) 486-4444 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Friday and 3 to 7 p.m. on Sunday.
FOILING IDENTITY THIEVES: If you notice that your next communication from the Social Security Administration (SSA) has left a few digits off your Social Security number, don’t be alarmed. The omissions was intentional, to curb identity theft. What the administration did was drop the first five digits of your number. Criminals can appropriate a person’s Social Security number and date of birth to steal that person’s identity and then fraudulently open credit card and bank accounts in the victim’s name. This can cost a victim thousands of dollars and loads of stress. On top of that, it can take year’s to undo the damage and restore one’s identity.
HELP WITH HEATING COSTS: Congressmember Anthony Weiner (D–Queens/Brooklyn) informs us that under a program called the Neighborhood Heating Fund, qualifying low-income families can receive assistance in paying their winter heating bills.
Weiner says the fund will pay $200 per season (December through March) toward the cost of heating one- and two-family homes, in some cases, and apartments too. To qualify, a family’s first resident must have a monthly income under $1,554 and additional residents may not earn more than $478 per month.
Weiner has been designated a neighborhood contact person for the program. An application for the assistance is available by writing to either of his community offices: at 104-01 Metropolitan Ave., Forest Hills, N.Y. 11375 or 90-16 Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Beach, N.Y. 11693. For more information, call (718) 332-9001.
Weiner says, "With the cost of living rising every day, it is imperative that we in government do everything we can to help families make ends meet."
AARP MEETINGS: AARP Chapter number 2889 will meet for the first time this year next Wednesday, January 16, at 12:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, 54-05 Seabury St., Elmhurst. Musical entertainment will be provided by Harry Sunday.
AARP Jackson Heights Chapter No. 991 will hold a social meeting on Wednesday, January 23, at 1 p.m. at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, 37-06 77th St., Jackson Heights. Joel Wandy will sing and accompany himself on the guitar.
ARROW SENIOR PROGRAM: Starting January 10 and continuing on succeeding Thursdays, the Queens Department of Parks and Recreation will hold a free senior program from 12:30 to 2 p.m. At ARROW Community Center, 35-30 35th St., Long Island City. A variety of activities, ranging from craft projects to dancing, will be offered. The program will be conducted in English and Spanish. For more information, call (718) 349-3408.