2002-02-13 / Seniors

Senior Spotlight

By John Toscano


Outlook For Drug Coverage Under Medicare Is Dim

Here we go again!

Last year, President George W. Bush proposed a program to overhaul Medicare and provide a prescription drug program for low-income elderly.

Democrats and many Republicans in Congress opposed the idea, saying the president was not spending enough on the program, which also should include anyone on Medicare without prescription drug coverage.

Just before his State of the Union address two weeks ago, the president proposed basically the same program. The same legislators expressed the same opposition for the same reasons, saying funding and coverage were inadequate.

The president’s proposal got nowhere last year and will likely suffer the same fate this year.

Because this is an election year, there’s a slight possibility that somebody will bend a bit to get the program going, but this is extremely unlikely.

There are 40 million seniors enrolled in Medicare and only a small percentage have drug coverage. The president’s plan would cover members with maximum income of $11,610 or a two-member family with an income up to $17,415. This would cover approximately three million Medicare members, far short of what the president’s opponents want to see.

About $77 billion would be allotted to the president’s program over a 10-year period. His opponents claim twice that amount is needed. Most of the country’s money these days is going to the military and the huge surplus of a few years ago is gone, a gift from the president to the taxpayers.

Seniors will have to grin and bear it and continue to struggle to pay for their necessary prescription drugs.

MORE HELP FOR CAREGIVERS: United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D–New York) says there are an estimated 3.5 million caregivers in New York State and about 75 percent of them are women. Tending to a sick family member is a physical and mental strain, she says, and more often than not interferes with the caregiver’s job or career.

To remedy the situation, Clinton plans to file a bill which would make grants available to help fund respite care services and to train respite care workers and volunteers who can step in to give family caregivers a break from their stressful lives for a few hours or even a few days.

"By enabling our most needy citizens to live in their own homes with those they love, family caregivers play an invaluable role in our communities and we must do more to provide them the support they need and deserve," Clinton said. That, she added, is why she’s working to expand the National Family Caregiver Program.

FREE PRESCRIPTION DRUGS? An announcement from an organization calling itself the Cost Containment Research Institute in Washington claims to have a booklet available that gives information on how and where to get free and low-cost prescription drugs.

The institute’s director, Gary Nave, explains: "Many major drug companies provide free or low-cost medication, but rarely, if ever, publicize the programs. We’ve published an A to Z listing of all the drugs that are available through patient assistance programs for free or at very low cost directly from the manufacturer."

To get a copy of the 32-page brochure, send $5 to cover the cost of printing and mailing to: Institute Fulfillment Center, Booklet, P.D. 70, P.O. Box 210, Dallas, PA 18612-0210 or visit their website at www.institutedc.org.

SPECIAL 9-1-1 CELL PHONES: Free cell phones with ‘911’ emergency access are available to seniors through the efforts of Phones for Life, Congressmember Anthony Weiner announced. To obtain an application for one, call his district office at (718) 332-9001.

Weiner explained that the phones were donated to the Phones for Life organization and then were specially programmed to dial 911 when used by a senior citizen in an emergency.

Severity of medical conditions, advanced age and degree of disability will be considered in awarding the phones, the Queens/Brooklyn lawmaker said. Weiner said his district office is still collecting used cell phones to keep the program going. The devices can be dropped off at his office at 1901 Emmons Ave., Suite 212, Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.

FREE EMERGENCY REPAIRS: Neighborhood Housing Services of Northern Queens operates the Senior Citizen Emergency Repair Program for persons 60 or older whose homes are in need of emergency repairs. To find out if you qualify, call Liliana Gonzalez at (718) 457-1017. To be eligible, you must be 60 or older, own and occupy your own home, and meet income limits. Also you can get repairs only up to $5,000. The sponsoring organization is located at 60-20 Woodside Ave., Second Floor, Woodside.

MEETING: AARP Chapter No. 2889 meets next Wednesday, February 20, at 12:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, 54-05 Seabury St., Elmhurst.

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