Thousands of the nation's poorest seniors who paid an average of $300 in out-of-pocket expenses when they applied for the Part D drug prescription coverage last year were not informed by federal healthcare officials that they were entitled to be reimbursed, Congressmember Joseph Crowley charged last week.
The lawmaker said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) were guilty of a "costly disservice" to an estimated 400,000 seniors nationwide and in his district and must correct the error.
Crowley (D- Queens/The Bronx) stated in a letter to CMMS Acting Administrator Leslie V. Norwalk, "This serious mistake has cost our nation's most vulnerable- the poor and sick- an estimated $100 million."
He told Norwalk, "I expect you to submit to the Committee on Ways and Means your plan for paying back seniors. I also ask you to notify my office of the names of my constituents affected by this mistake."
Crowley, a member of Ways and Means, added, "I am going to work to ensure that [the seniors] get their hard-earned money returned to them."
As a member of the committee, which has jurisdiction of the Part D program, Crowley learned of the CMMS error. The panel received a report from the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) which revealed the costly mistake.
Crowley explained that when low-income seniors qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, they must enroll in a more expansive Medicare Part D program. It can be at least five weeks before they're enrolled in the special program, Crowley noted.
"Under current law, however, that senior must get coverage retroactive to when they became eligible, meaning CMMS is obligated to reimburse them for the drug costs they incurred during the enrollment process," Crowley declared.
Crowley said he is leading an effort to conduct Congressional oversight hearings into the CMMS error.
NOLAN, GIOIA PROTEST CENTER CLOSING: Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D- Ridgewood) and City Councilmember Eric Gioia (D- Long Island City) joined members of the St. Mary's Senior Center in Long Island City last Friday in a demonstration to protest the proposed closing of the facility.
The two lawmakers said in a statement that the center at 10-15 49th Ave. has been operated for the past 20 years by Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens with support from the city Department For the Aging (DFTA). The center provided nutritious meals, social activities, guidance and counseling to the area's elderly residents.
Now, the lawmakers say, Catholic Charities claims, "The dilapidated building is no longer adequate for providing these services and that attendance rates have been dropping continuously in the past few years."
Nolan and Gioia are exploring ways to keep the center in operation.
HIRING THE DISABLED: In hopes of having more businesses hire disabled persons, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and her Advisory Council for Persons With Disabilities held its firstever Employment and Support Service Day yesterday at Borough Hall in Kew Gardens.
Marshall said the event was "an opportunity for service providers to talk with businesses about employment opportunities that are available for individuals with disabilities".
In return, the borough president said, businesses would be able to learn about subsidies, free job support and tax incentives that may be available to them if they take on disabled employees.