Vallone Has HEAP Applications; AARP Opposes Private S.S. Accounts
City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. has applications available in his office for seniors eligible for the Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP), which helps seniors’ families pay their energy bills so the heat stays on through the cold winter.
HEAP is a federally funded program sponsored by the New York City Department for the Aging (DFTA). Eligible individuals are 60 years of age or older, and heads of households and on Social Security Disability. They must also meet income guidelines and receive SSI Code A.
Vallone (D–Astoria) advises applying early because only limited funds are available. His district office is at 21-45 31st St., Astoria, 718-274-4500.
MONITORING DRUG PRICES: The drug discount program sponsored by Medicare will not be effective if drug prices keep rising as they have. AARP, the seniors’ advocacy organization reported recently that the average price for the 197 most widely prescribed drugs rose 7.4 percent for the year ending in September, according to the December 7 edition of Newsday.
To keep tabs on the price listings, the AARP has started a program to monitor local pharmacies throughout New York state to determine what they charge for the most prescribed drugs. The prices will then be fed into the Web site maintained by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, which came online last August.
The purpose of the Web site, www.NYAGRx.org, is to allow consumers to compare prices, find the lowest and save some money. The Web site lists the prices by the drug stores’ location, city and county, or ZIP code. It also gives tips on shopping intelligently and lists sources of free or reduced-price medications and indicates who may be eligible for them.
According to Rashmi Vasisht, director of policy in Spitzer’s Health Care Bureau, there are 4,664 drugstores in the state, including pharmacies in hospitals and correctional facilities. So far, she said, 740 drugstores covering each of the 62 counties is represented on the site’s listings.
To get more drugstores listed on the site, AARP state chapter would like to sign up 1,000 seniors as volunteer “Rx watchdogs” to check out local pharmacies and maintain a watch over drug prices to spot increases. This is especially important to seniors, who generally take more prescription drugs than younger people and thus spend a good percentage of their money on medications.
AARP OPPOSES S.S. PRIVATE ACCOUNTS: President George W. Bush is determined to add private accounts to Social Security, a change that would be extremely costly to the federal government (read: taxpayers), some say as high as $2 trillion.
So the topic is on newspaper op ed pages, in magazines, on television—everywhere, it seems, and so it should be.
In the AARP Bulletin December issue, the AARP comes out flatly against private accounts. To set up private accounts, as Bush has proposed since first taking office, some workers would have part of their Social Security tax payments set aside in an account. The funds could then be invested in the stock market or anywhere else.
Under the present system, all Social Security tax collections go into a general fund and are used to pay the monthly benefits of current members. If Social Security tax collections are reduced by diverting funds into private accounts, then current benefits would be reduced. And if the Bush administration has to sell bonds to get the money to make the private account program work while also maintaining current monthly benefit payouts, the national debt will surge by about $2 trillion, economists say.