May 26, 2000

From the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver, Speaker
Barbara M. Clark, Chair, Committee on Aging

State Budget Improves
Health Care for Seniors

Expanded EPIC Program Gives 80,000 More
Seniors Access to Low-Cost Prescriptions

Skyrocketing prescription costs place a heavy financial burden on seniors with fixed incomes. That’s why during budget negotiations the Assembly fought to ensure seniors can afford the prescriptions they need to stay healthy. No one should ever be forced to choose between buying their prescriptions or putting food on the table.

The final state budget provides $100.5 million in funding for vital health care programs, including a $55.4 million expansion of the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program that will significantly cut out-of-pocket prescription expenses for 80,000 more older adults.

The enhanced EPIC plan raises the income eligibility level to $35,000 for individuals and $50,000 for married couples. In addition to expanding eligibility, the budget reduces co-payments by 20% and simplifies the co-payment schedule from five tiers to four –– so seniors can rest easier when it comes to their health care costs.

Ongoing efforts to expand EPIC

The Assembly Majority’s original budget proposal went even further –– eliminating the complicated schedule of fees, deductibles, co-payments and co-payment thresholds, and lowering the co-payments to two –– $3 and $15, depending on the price of the drug. Unfortunately, these EPIC improvements were rejected by the Senate and the Executive.

The Assembly has a long history of fighting for EPIC. In 1996, we fought successfully to make the EPIC program permanent.

Last year –– when the Executive attempted to slash $10.1 million from EPIC –– the Assembly stood firm against funding cuts and won. And in 1998, the Assembly Majority increased EPIC’s income eligibility level and reduced the fee schedule by almost 50%.

EPIC has played an important role in ensuring continued good health for thousands of older New Yorkers. Now, we’re making a good program even better.

Other senior health initiatives

The final budget also includes:

  • $4.1 million for cancer initiatives,
    including breast cancer support, education, screening and outreach;
  • $4 million to improve the quality of
    services at adult care facilities;
  • a tax credit equal to 10% of long-term care insurance premiums –– a 70 year-old paying average premiums will receive a credit of $242;
  • $438,000 to investigate and resolve complaints on behalf of longterm care residents; and
  • $375,000 to study and fight Alzheimer’s disease.

Continuing our commitment to provide
affordable health care for all New Yorkers

The Assembly Majority is committed to making sure that all New Yorkers have the quality, affordable health care they need. Last December we enacted HCRA 2000, a landmark measure that provides health coverage to nearly one million uninsured New Yorkers, curbs youth smoking and wards off new Medicaid cuts for the next three years.

If you have questions, or think you may be
eligible for EPIC benefits, please call:

EPIC Hotline

To learn more about EPIC program improvements click here...
To find out how EPIC can help you save on your prescription costs click here...

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