2003-02-08 / Columnists

Chatting With Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey

Chatting With Chapey

By Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey,
Democratic District Leader

Prescription Drugs: Reduce the Cost

As I mentioned in my column previously, Bill Frist, the newly elected Republican leader of the United States Senate, is a medical doctor.  One of the issues that he is going to champion as a hallmark of his first year is to pass legislation reducing the costs of prescription drugs.  According to the New York Times, Frist believes in a prescription drug plan for all seniors.  President Bush in the State of the Union address, noted that we must have doctors, nurses and patients in charge of health care issues.

Reducing the cost of prescription drugs has long been a democratic issue.  I am pleased that the Republicans have taken up the cause.  Many seniors are living on a fixed income and have to make a decision as to whether they will spend their money on food or on their much needed prescription drugs.

As you would expect the Democrats and Republicans are looking at different avenues to approach the same goal.  According to a Newsday article by Paul London on January 23, Republicans want to increase the drug benefits by subsidizing private insurance companies whereas the Democrats are looking to underwrite an increased drug benefit by expanding Medicare.  Republican and Democratic leaders are all in agreement with the goal of reducing the cost of prescription drugs but the big question remains - how do we get there?  As Paul London points out - the only way to reduce prices is "to force a reluctant health care industry to invest in cost saving technology the way other Americans have over the past 30 years".

What is holding this back?  London notes that businesses and government agencies that pay for 80 percent of health care are not requiring computerized health care in the computerized technology age.  We need to be more demanding of our health care system.

One plan that is currently available in New York State is the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program (EPIC).  This is a New York State sponsored prescription plan for seniors.  As of January, 2001 the law significantly increases the EPIC plan.  The benefits were improved in the following areas: income limits were increased, co-payments for prescriptions were lowered, quarterly fees were reduced for low and moderate income seniors and a new deductible plan was added for higher income seniors.

EPIC is open to New York State residents who are 65 or older.  There is a fee plan for single seniors with an income of $20,000 or less or married seniors with an income of $26,000 or less.  The deductible plan is available for single seniors with an income ranging between $20,001 to $35,000 and married seniors with an income between $26,001 and $50,000.

Seniors who are enrolled in the plan and have satisfied the above requirements of the fee or deductible plan bring their card to the local pharmacy and are charged according to the following schedule: prescriptions costing up to $15 - card holders pay $3; prescriptions costing $15.01 to $35 - card holders pay $7; prescriptions costing $25.01 to $55 - card holders pay $15; prescriptions costing over $55 - card holders pay $20.

EPIC has a toll free hotline which is open from 8:30 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday.  Call 1-800-332-3742 to get an application or ask for information.

If you need assistance please call me at 1-718-474-1641 or drop by my office at 104-02 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Monday through Friday between 11 AM and 4 PM, I will be happy to help you.

As a follow-up to my article last week, I have worked to have a van available for group use by seniors.  The van holds 14 people with one additional motorized wheelchair lift.  If you have a group of 14 seniors who would like to go on a trip please call me at 1-718-474-1641 Monday through Friday between 11 AM and 4 PM.  We will be happy to try to assist you.

Please reserve Wednesday, April 30, 2003 to attend a luncheon at Russo's on the Bay to raise funds for Trinity Senior Services.  The tickets cost $40.00.  Please call 1-718-474-1641 Monday through Friday between 11 AM and 4 PM to make a reservation.

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