2006-02-15 / Seniors

Feds Paying, So Pataki Vetoes Emergency Rx Coverage

After federal authorities informed New York state health officials that the state would be reimbursed for helping to provide drug prescriptions for individuals who were not getting the new Medicare Part D coverage, Governor George Pataki vetoed a bill which would have provided temporary emergency drug coverage under the federal government’s drug prescription coverage program.

The state legislature’s emergency coverage program, as reported in last week’s Senior Spotlight column in the Gazette, said the bill was awaiting action by the governor. He subsequently rejected the bill.

In announcing the veto and the federal government reimbursement program, Pataki also announced that all claims from individuals or pharmacies incurred through today, February 15, which the state honored and pledged to pay for, will be reimbursed.

The governor added that from February 16 through March 8, pharmacists will be required to attempt to access the federal benefit. If this proves unsuccessful, the federal government will continue to reimburse the state for these claims.

The governor stated, “Because federal officials have agreed to reimburse New York through next month, we will be able to continue to provide prescription drug coverage at the state level, while protecting New York taxpayers, as the federal government corrects these problems.”

On January 13, the governor had acted to prevent people from being denied their medications or being charged exorbitant amounts because they encountered problems arising from dual Medicare/Medicaid coverage when the Part D program began on January 1.

Now, said Pataki, the state Health Department will continue its temporary suspension of related Medicaid rules through March 8 so that qualified New Yorkers can continue to receive coverage for their prescription drugs.

After March 8, he said, the program will revert back to the plans that were originally in place. These called for people previously being covered under Medicaid for prescription drugs now to be enrolled instead in the Medicare Part D program.

The governor urges anyone who may be experiencing problems in getting their prescription drugs to call the federal hotline at 1-800MEDICARE for assistance.

‘DON’T GET THE FLU, GET THE SHOT’: That’s the advice of city Health Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, who announced last week that cases of the flu are increasing in New York City and residents who have not been vaccinated with the flu shot are being urged to get one as quickly as possible to prevent the flu this season.

Frieden said flu-related visits to emergency departments in hospitals and city health clinics have increased markedly and several outbreaks have occurred in city nursing homes.

“Flu shots prevent illness and save lives,” Frieden pointed out.

He said city residents should consult their doctors about getting a flu shot or call 311 for information about a no-cost flu shot.

Those most at risk, Frieden said, are people age 50 and older, especially those 65 and older; children age 6 to 23 months; pregnant women; residents of nursing homes and other long-term facilities, and health care workers.

Also at risk are persons aged 6 months and older with long-term health problems such as: diabetes, lung disease, including asthma, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, immune system problems (including HIV/AIDS); those being treated for cancer or taking high-dose steroids; suffering from conditions that can cause breathing problems, such as cognitive dysfunction, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or other neuromuscular disorders, and children aged 6 months to 18 years on long-term aspirin therapy.

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