2004-06-30 / Seniors

Onorato, Stavisky Offer Help In Selecting A Drug Discount Card

State Senators Onorato, l., and Stavisky, r..State Senators Onorato, l., and Stavisky, r..

State Senators George Onorato and Toby Ann Stavisky are making efforts to help their seniors constituents make the right choice when selecting a drug prescription discount card.

Onorato (D–Astoria) announced last week he is preparing a free information brochure on the discount drug card to help Medicare beneficiaries choose the best card for their needs.

Stavisky (D–Flushing) is calling attention to seniors in the New York state EPIC program, which provides drug discounts, to take a close look at how the new federal government drug card would work for them. Before deciding on applying for a drug discount card, Stavisky said, EPIC members should find out how to apply for the Medicare drug discount card and how much they might save by getting one through the EPIC program.

The concern of both lawmakers arises out of the confusion associated with the new federal program. There are more than 70 cards to choose from in the program which started June 1, with major differences between the discounts offered and the prices set on various drugs.

Onorato declared, "While these cards may help some seniors enjoy significant savings on their prescription drugs, there is no question that the program is very confusing."

He explains: "Different cards offer different savings, cover different drugs and are good at different pharmacies. While I certainly don’t have all of the answers about these cards, my brochure attempts to answer some common questions about the optional program and provides contact information to help seniors reach trained counselors who can help them sort out their many drug card options."

To receive a copy of Onorato’s brochure, write to his office in Albany at 315 LOB, Albany, N.Y. 12247, e-mail staff member Janet K. Kash at Kash@senate.state.ny.us, or phone his district office at 1-718-545-9706 and ask to be transferred to extension 7907 in Albany.

Stavisky points out that EPIC (Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Program) has been tremendously successful in lowering the cost of prescription drugs for seniors with low and moderate incomes. She said the Medicare drug discount cards offer discounts between 10 percent and 25 percent and that there are 45 cards offered in New York State.

The lawmaker notes that Medicare has begun an extensive outreach program to educate EPIC enrollees about the drug discount card program. They will be receiving letters providing information and how it affects EPIC coverage. Information is also available through the Medicare Rights Center at 1-800-869-3850, or through the city Department for the Aging. The toll-free EPIC number is 1-800-332-3742. Stavisky’s office can be reached at 718-445-0004.

Onorato also made mention of the EPIC program and how its members, who must be 65 or over and not eligible for Medicaid coverage, will be treated under the Medicare drug discount card program.

EARLY TEST: The Bush presidential administration, which is administering the Medicare drug discount card program through 2004 and 2005 until the full drug prescription benefit law kicks in in 2006, last week announced a preliminary trial of the new benefit program.

It will cover 50,000 people suffering from cancer, rheumatism, arthritis, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis and several other serious diseases. Under this experimental program, which will cost the government $500 million, 40 percent of the money, or $200 million, will be earmarked for oral cancer drugs that patients can take on their own as a replacement for drugs they are getting by injection or in a doctor’s office.

An estimated 500,000 or 600,000 people are being targeted, but only 50,000 will be chosen at random by the Department of Health and Human Services to participate in the program. It will be a test on how the prescription drug discount law will operate when it starts in 2006 covering 41 million elderly people on Medicare.

In the experimental program, the 50,000 chosen to participate will pay the same share of drug expenditures as they will under the regular program. The test program is designed to determine how the coverage will work for these people with serious illnesses. Patients who already have comprehensive drug coverage under an existing healthcare program or Medicaid will not be eligible for the experimental program.

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