2005-12-21 / Seniors

City Seniors’ Agency Has 38 Centers To Help Enroll People In Federal Drug Subsidy Plan

by john toscano

With 10 days to go before the start of the new Medicare prescription drug program, designed to help seniors lower the cost of their medications, the city Department for the Aging (DFTA) has 38 centers throughout the city ready and willing to assist seniors and the disabled to enroll in the new program.

Enrolling in the program, known as Medicare Part D, is voluntary. Those who enroll in it by December 31 will have prescription drug coverage partially subsidized by the federal government beginning January 1.

If a person enrolls in 2006, the DFTA announcement said, coverage will start the first day of the month that follows the enrollment.

(For other information on the drug program, see Senior spotlight on Page X).

The DFTA enrollment centers are located in all five boroughs and offer one-on-one assistance with the new program. There are an estimated 1.1 million New Yorkers eligible for this benefit.

DFTA Commissioner Edwin Mendez–Santiago said, “The new prescription benefit is important for our seniors and people living with disabilities. Seniors have an opportunity to save money on their prescription drug costs.”

He said the 38 DFTA assistance centers can help seniors organize their Medicare information, compare prescription plans and enroll in a plan.

“I urge seniors to take their time to consider all the options,” he said. “Seniors need the correct information to be able to select the best plan for their needs”.

Seniors can locate an information and enrollment center by calling 311 or by going online at www.nyc.gov/aging, said Amy Bernstein, director of the DFTA health insurance information counseling program.

“Our sites speak a total of 18 languages—including Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Hindi,” Bernstein said. “Seniors who call 311 will also be able to receive assistance from the Medicare Rights Center.”

Bernstein emphasized, “There is plenty of time for seniors to decide on a plan. By visiting one of our centers and talking one-on-one with a peer, we hope New York seniors will be more informed about the many choices they have.”

There are 46 drug plans available in New York State. Cost of the plans, DFTA said, ranges from $4.10 to $85.02. The plan will cover brand name and generic drugs. Prescriptions will be obtained from neighborhood pharmacies and through mail order houses.

Some plans have deductibles of $250, DFTA said, while the deductibles for others have been reduced or the plans have no deductible. The 46 plans cover different medications for the same ailment. No plan covers all top 100 drugs. Many of the plans carry 85 or more of the top 100 drugs, including brand names like Lipitor and Prevacid.

The DFTA is the largest area agency in the United States. It is federally mandated to plan, coordinate and fund services for the 1.3 million elderly New Yorkers in the city’s five boroughs. The DFTA administers New York City’s 329 senior centers and an array of other senior programs and entitlements.

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