Senior Spotlight By John Toscano
Governor George Pataki, who has already lost to the state legislature regarding seniors’ coverage under the Medicare prescription drug plan, is now facing flak from Democrats who oppose his efforts to switch members from the popular EPIC drug discount program into the Medicare drug subsidy program.
Last week, United States Senator Charles Schumer took issue with the governor’s plan, as did A s s e m b l y m e m b e r Catherine Nolan.
EPIC (Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage), for about a decade has provided prescription drugs at discount prices for more than 361,000 seniors from all income groups, and allows members to realize some savings.
With the advent of the new Medicare Part D program this past January 1, the governor announced plans to move 91,000 EPIC members into Part D coverage on July 1. The move must be approved by the state legislature.
Recently, Schumer asked Pataki to scrap or delay those plans because the Part D program is still having problems. Schumer also asked the governor and state lawmakers to assure him that another 270,000 EPIC members won’t be bumped into the Part D program until its problems have been worked out and it is operating satisfactorily.
The governor said that moving EPIC members to Medicare would save the state about $113 million a year. Any former EPIC members who find that coverage under Part D does not work out satisfactorily, any member can still go back to the discount drug program.
A s s e m b l y m e m b e r Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) also criticized the governor’s plan. She noted that the state legislature’s plan to provide stopgap coverage for 600,000 seniors could go into effect, only after a Pataki veto was overridden, pointing out that those seniors were not properly enrolled in Part D and faced harrowing moments when they had to travel to many, often widely scattered drugstores, to get their lifesustaining prescriptions filled.
“The governor takes the same callous stand regarding the EPIC program, pushing approximately 91,000 low-income seniors to give up their benefits and shoving them into the new, ill-conceived and chaotically implemented federal drug benefit,” Nolan declared.
EPIC is slightly more expensive than the Part D coverage, but offers a wider selection of drugs and fills its members’ needs without headaches. In addition, the EPIC program works smoothly and has a good track record generally.
KRYZAK AWARDS AT FLUSHING HOUSE: United Adult Ministries, the parent company of Flushing House, recently presented the Rose Kryzak Senior Leadership Awards to three senior activists.
The awards honor Kryzak, a longtime Flushing House resident and senior activist best known for her successful campaign to establish the state’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Program (EPIC).
The honorees are Ronald Fatoullah, a Forest Hills attorney; Carol Hunt, former director of the
Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults (JSPOA), and the Rev. James Reece, former official of the New York City Presbytery and senior activist.
Flushing House, at 3820 Bowne St., Flushing, is a nonprofit retirement residence opened in 1974 and is one of the first to offer older adult independent living services.
MEETING: AARP Chapter 2889 will meet Wednesday, March 1 at 12:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Newtown, 54-05 Seabury St., Elmhurst. Joshua Deutsch will speak on estate planning.