Bill Would Spare More Seniors R.E. Tax Exempt
Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin has guided a bill through his committee which will make more seniors eligible for some tax savings under the School Tax Relief Program, called STAR for short. It’s very timely because in today’s climate of increases in many taxes to meet budget demands, very little is heard about a possible tax saving.
Under McLaughlin’s bill, the cap to qualify for the exemption on real estate taxes is increased from $60,000 to $62,100, thus making more seniors eligible for the benefit.
McLaughlin (D–Flushing/ Richmond Hill) explained that when the program started in 2001, the cap was set at $60,000 for annual income for a senior couple. Now a senior couple with annual earnings of $62,100 can submit their 2002 income tax return to apply for the STAR exemption for the 2003 year. Filing takes place early in the year.
McLaughlin noted that although couples with higher income of $62,100 must file for the 2003 benefit early next year, in future years they, and all other seniors filing for the STAR benefit, can have their income verified by the state Department of Taxation and Finance and will not require submission of a federal tax return to prove earnings.
"What this bill does," McLaughlin pointed out, "is it not only gives the senior citizen the opportunity for tax relief, but it also eliminates the wait and worry of the bureaucracy to catch up."
Addressing himself to his bill’s purpose, McLaughlin stated: "Tax relief, especially for our senior population, should not be based on a formula that makes eligibility a game of chance and one that would continue to replicate their ineligibility. We should be working to give seniors the best shot at getting what they qualify for without an arbitrary base."
McLaughlin is chairman of the Assembly Real Property Taxation Committee.
PRIVATE HEALTH PLANS MORE COSTLY: President George W. Bush’s proposal to give seniors drug prescription coverage required them to enroll in a private health care plan rather than stay in Medicare. Those Medicare members who would want to reman in the nation’s longtime health care plan would be denied prescription drug coverage.
The president’s proposal was attacked as unfair to the many seniors who opted for Medicare because they prized their ability to stay with physicians of their own choice. He was also criticized for blatantly favoring the private health care industry and acting to drive up profits by influencing seniors to get into a private plan in order to get the highly desired prescription drug coverage.
Last week, the president’s plan looked even less attractive when a report out of Washington cited two sources which maintained that private health plans are, on average, 15 percent more costly for senior clients than Medicare.
These assertions directly challenged the argument made by the president and Republican lawmakers that private health care was less costly than Medicare.
The Washington report said that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, a nonpartisan federal advisory panel, had commissioned a study to compare fees paid by Medicare and private health plans and it showed private plans paid 15 percent more to doctors and hospitals than Medicare does.
Zachary Dyckman, an economist, conducted the study by collecting data from 33 health plans covering 31 million people.
The second person who agreed with the Dyckman study conclusion was Paul B. Ginsburg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, a private group that monitors trends in health care markets around the country.
Ginsburg said that in most areas of the United States, payment rates for hospitals and physicians were higher than those paid by Medicare. This is especially true in rural areas where there are fewer doctors and less competition in the health care field.
Developments over the past several years have shown the same conclusion. Private health care plans have become increasingly more costly for seniors, as the costs of belonging to the plans have risen.
MEETING: Musical entertainment will be featured at next Wednesday’s meeting of AARP Chapter No. 2889 at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown at 12:30 p.m. at 54-05 Seabury St., Elmhurst.