Seniors could lose majority of prescription coverage

State budget cuts being proposed by Governor Cuomo and the State Senate will make it difficult for over 2,800 older New Yorkers in Seneca and Cayuga counties to afford their prescription drugs.“Governor Cuomo wants to dismantle EPIC, the state’s historic and life-saving prescription drug assistance program for almost 300,000 low- and moderate-income people age 65 and over,” said David McNally, AARP New York State Manager of Government Affairs. “Although the State Assembly rejected cutting the EPIC program in its budget resolution, the State Senate has so far failed to fully fund it in its state budget proposal.”Budget proposals by both the governor and the senate would eliminate all coverage under EPIC except when an enrollee falls into the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap. This reduction of coverage would hurt many older New Yorkers who rely on EPIC to afford their prescription drugs. The average enrollee is 78 years old and on four prescription medications. “We know the state faces significant financial problems, but making it harder for older New Yorkers to get the prescription drugs they need is no way to balance the state budget,” McNally continued. “When seniors can’t afford their prescriptions, their health is further compromised leading to a higher rate of hospital states and more expensive nursing home care.”A recent survey conducted by AARP revealed that 41% of New Yorkers age 50 and over are worried they may not be able to afford their prescription drugs. AARP’s Public Policy Institute’s Rx Price Watch Report has documented that as of March 2010, inflation dropped while the manufacturer prices of the brand name prescription drugs most widely used by Medicare beneficiaries increased by an average of 9.7 percent. “We know that having access to affordable prescription drugs is a major concern for our members and their families,” said McNally. “We feel it is important for people on EPIC to be aware that unless the governor and senate take action to save this program, many enrollees will not be able to afford their prescription medication.”“We’re counting on Senators Nozzolio and Valesky to make sure that the 2,800 plus people in Seneca and Cayuga counties, who rely on this program to stay healthy, have the peace of mind of knowing that EPIC will be there for them as they struggle to pay the ever-increasing costs of prescription drugs,” McNally concluded.According to AARP, over 600 contacts have been made by AARP members and activists from the 54th and 49th senate districts to Senators Nozzolio and Valesky about EPIC in the last few weeks. AARP encourages its members and their families throughout Seneca and Cayuga counties to contact their senators and urge them to reject attempts to cut EPIC and to support full funding in this year’s state budget. People can express their concerns about the proposed cuts to EPIC by calling Senators Nozzolio and Valesky toll free at 800-700-6469.

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