Assemblyman Bob Sweeney Assemblyman
Bob
Sweeney

Report to
the People

Fall 2006


Making Health Care Count

Funding our Hospitals and Nursing Homes — By persevering over the governor’s objections and providing $804.1 million in restorations and new spending for crucial health care and aging programs, the Legislature protected our hospitals and nursing homes so they will be there for us when we need help. Assemblyman Bob Sweeney fought for this state funding increase so that all New Yorkers have access to quality, affordable health care.

The legislation:

  • Increases hospital emergency room reimbursement rates to help struggling hospitals care for the uninsured

  • Increases nursing home reimbursements

  • Provides $172 million in additional Health Care Reform Act spending for several programs including Medicaid Managed Care, a new Home Care Recruitment and Retention program, and indigent care funding for community health centers

  • Extends the state’s wraparound coverage of Medicaid/Medicare dual eligible individuals

Fighting Medicaid Fraud — The Assembly took the lead to end Medicaid fraud and passed legislation which creates a Medicaid Inspector General office to uncover and combat fraud. The bill passed the Senate and awaits the governor’s signature.

Medicaid fraud wastes taxpayer dollars and robs our most vulnerable-the sick, disabled and elderly-of needed care. Cracking down on these abuses will help protect both people who need care as well as taxpayers by punishing those who abuse the system.

Disclosing Drug Company Gifts to Doctors — Assemblyman Sweeney supported legislation to disclose marketing tactics drug companies use to sell their prescription drugs, so you can think twice before buying high-priced medicine because of hype.

Currently, drug companies spend billions-an average of $13,000 per physician a year-to influence doctors. The Assembly bill would outline perks pharmaceutical companies give doctors, hospitals, clinics and medical personnel in a free annual consumer guide, published by the state Department of Health and distributed by the Office of the Aging and local agencies.

Getting the Best Price for Prescription Drugs — The Assembly fought for lower drug costs by establishing the Prescription Drug Assistance Program which Assemblyman Sweeney supported. The proposal would direct the state to collectively bargain for reduced drug prices for seniors; Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) insurance program participants; gap coverage, including the ‘doughnut hole” gap in Medicare Part D; those without health insurance; and health care facilities.

Under the bill, the state would negotiate lower prices for prescription drugs and lower the cost of prescription drugs, saving money for both state health plans and Medicaid and saving you money on the prescriptions you need.

HEALTH TIPS

Lower drug prices — Comparison shopping for low drug prices at www.nyagrx.org. a web site maintained by the Attorney General and AARP, can also help lower your drug costs.

Long-term care — The New York State Partnership for Long-Term Care brings private insurance providers and Medicaid together to assist individuals in preparing for nursing home or other long-term care to protect their assets and maintain their financial independence. For more information, log on to www.ins.state.ny.us or call 1-800-342-3736.

Health care proxy — The New York Health Care Proxy lets you select a trusted adult family member or friend to make medical decisions when you can’t, including whether or not to provide life-sustaining treatment. For information about living wills and health care proxy forms, visit www.health.state.ny.us and click on “Health Care Proxy” under “Current Issues.”

Health care rights — When you or your family face a serious illness, learn your health care rights and how to make sure your insurance coverage is adequate by calling the New York State Insurance Department at 1-866-694-6743 or logging on to www.insurancehelpny.com.

TAX RELIEF

Property tax savings with STAR — Assemblyman Bob Sweeney voted for STAR rebates to provide real tax relief to New Yorkers, returning money directly to all STAR-eligible homeowners and working families who need it most.

In Suffolk County, homeowners eligible for the Basic STAR exemption, which has no age or income limit, would receive an average rebate of approximately $285.00; those 65 and older eligible for the Enhanced STAR exemption would receive approximately $447.00. The budget also provides a cost-of-living adjustment for Enhanced STAR, which will save eligible seniors an additional $72 million. In Suffolk County, the average senior homeowner will save an additional $203.00.

Additional tax savings — Assemblyman Sweeney also fought to reduce taxes by:

  • Eliminating the regressive 4 percent sales tax on clothing and footwear under $110.00

  • Eliminating the marriage penalty tax

  • Capping sales tax on gasoline

Protecting equity in your home — Assemblyman Sweeney voted for the Home Equity Theft Prevention Act to protect you against dishonest businesses that trade in unaffordable high interest equity loans or bait and switch schemes where you unknowingly sign your deed over to a bank or disreputable lender.

The measure helps sellers better understand the terms of their contracts, and allows them a right to cancel it, while imposing criminal penalties for lenders who violate the law.

The legislation helps to stop predatory lending and strengthens existing state laws passed in 2002 to protect homeowners.

For more information visit the state’s Banking Department web site at www.bankning.state.ny.us/csbr.htm




YOU ARE INVITED. . .
to the

2006 SENIOR CITIZEN’S HEALTH FAIR

SPONSORED BY
ASSEMBLYMAN BOB SWEENEY
AND
BRUNSWICK HOSPITAL

Saturday, October 21st, 9:00 a.m. to noon
Tanner Park Senior Center, Copiague
Come for free screenings:

Cholesterol
Respiratory Screening
Blood Sugar
Blood Pressure
Flu Shots
Balance screening for fall prevention

Quick Reminder: An appointment and a 12-hour fast are required for cholesterol and blood sugar tests. An appointment is required for the flu shot, which are limited in number. To make an appointment, please call Assemblyman Bob Sweeney at 957-2087. Please note that space is limited. Results are available in about 30 minutes and literature on health issues will be available. There will also be free refreshments for your enjoyment.

This event is sponsored by Assemblyman Bob Sweeney
and Brunswick Hospital, and is not paid for at taxpayer’s expense.




FREE PUBLICATIONS AVAILABLE

A number of free publications are available from Assemblyman Bob Sweeney’s office. A few of them are described below.

  • New York State EPIC – information and application for New York’s prescription program for seniors

  • Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Know Your Rights (courtesy of AARP)

  • If you lose the ability to make your own health care decisions, who will decide for you? Information on New York State’s Health Care Proxy law

  • Suffolk County Accessible Transportation – for people with disabilities who need transportation within Suffolk County

  • Veterans and Seniors Medical Transportation – a not-for-profit company providing transportation (not an ambulance service)

  • Long Island Farm Bureau brochure on farm stands on Long Island.

  • The American Flag –Its History and Customs

  • MTA map – this large fold-out color map shows the MTA railroad system, plus all MTA subways, buses and ferry connections

For your free copy of any of these brochures, call Assemblyman Sweeney’s office at 631-957-2087.




Senior Van Visits Town of Babylon

Assemblyman Bob Sweeney has announced that the Suffolk Senior Citizen Mobile Information Office will be visiting the Town of Babylon on September 25th.

The office provides a variety of services for senior citizens and will issue Suffolk County Senior I.D. cards to persons 60 years and older; provide Suffolk County senior employment information and referral for persons 55 or older; and information on health insurance and the EPIC program. Literature pertaining to senior citizens is also available.

The mobile office will be located in front of Assemblyman Sweeney’s office at 270B North Wellwood Avenue, Lindenhurst, on Monday, September 25th. 10:30am-noon, 1:00pm-3:00pm.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL: ASSEMBLYMAN BOB SWEENEY AT 957-2087 OR THE SENIOR HOTLINE AT 853-8200.

As always, it’s a good idea to call ahead to confirm date and time.




1 in 5
That’s the lifetime risk of a man being diagnosed with prostate cancer. When diagnosed early, prostate cancer cases have a 99% survival rate for at least five years. Early detection is very important.

For a decade Assemblyman Bob Sweeney has been sponsoring free prostate cancer screening clinics locally. Several have just been concluded, screening approximately 300 men. A special thanks to Dr. Howard Adler and the Prostate Care Program of Stony Brook University Hospital, which conducts the screenings, and to the North Lindenhurst Fire Department for hosting them.

It is expected that additional screenings will be scheduled in the fall at the local County health centers. Information on those will be made available when the dates have been set. In the meantime, for information on prostate cancer contact Assemblyman Sweeney’s office (phone 957-2087).




NEW BILLS APPROVED
The 2006 State legislative session has resulted in a number of bills approved that affect seniors. Following is a summary of some of them (please note that in order for a bill to become law it must pass the Assembly and Senate and be signed by the Governor).

A8696-A Increases Income Limit for Real Property Tax Exemption- Senior citizens across the State are shouldering an increasing amount of property taxes each and every year. For many of these seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, this burden has become overwhelming. To provide more seniors with an adequate level of relief, this bill would grant local governments the option to raise the maximum income eligibility limit for the Senior Citizen Real Property Tax Exemption program from the current $24,000 to $29,000 over a five year period in increments of $1,000 per year. PASSED BOTH HOUSES-AWAITING GOVERNORS SIGNATURE

A6256-A Creates the Coordinating Council for Services Related to Alzheimer’s Disease- According to the New York State Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, 300,000 older New York State residents have dementia and this number is projected to continue growing rapidly. The Task Force recommended the creation of a council on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias to oversee implementation of the Task Force’s recommendations and ensure the coordination of public-private efforts to meet the needs of persons with dementia, and their families, and the professionals and services that support them. The Council’s responsibilities would be to facilitate interagency planning and policy for dementia, review specific agency initiatives, and provide a forum for the discussion of issues related to the formulation of a State policy on dementia that would enhance access to appropriate services. The Department of Health (DOH) would serve as the lead agency for Council activities because of its primary regulatory responsibilities for the health care network. PASSED ASSEMBLY

A5274 Establishes a Caregiver Support Program for Grandparents- There are over 240,000 children being raised in grandparent-headed households in New York State. Many grandparents assume responsibility for their grandchildren under critical circumstances, such as drug addiction or incarceration of the parents, death of the parents, and mental health or disability issues faced by the parents. However, grandparent caregivers are often unaware of services available to them for assistance. The Grandparent Caregiver Support program proposed by this legislation would provide grandparent caregivers with the resources and assistance they need for their grandchildren. PASSED ASSEMBLY

A11243 Creates the Geriatric Chemical Dependence Act-The legislature has found that the misuse and abuse of alcohol and prescribed and over the counter drugs is currently a serious health problem among older Americans, affecting up to seventeen percent of adults aged sixty and older. The increase of illegal drug use among older Americans also is on the rise because illicit drug users are living longer. In New York State, approximately half a million adults over the age of 60 suffer from some form of substance abuse or misuse. Yet many seniors suffering from chemical dependence or abuse are not diagnosed, and those that are too often are not being appropriately treated for their chemical dependence issues. In preparation for the enormous growth of the senior population in New York State, a comprehensive, coordinated approach to recognizing and effectively treating chemical dependence among seniors is essential both in the short and the long-term. PASSED BOTH HOUSES-AWAITING GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE

A11699 Relates to the Posting of the Long Term Care Ombudsman Poster- Many residents of family type homes for adults and their family members do not know that there are volunteer ombudsman to help settle disputes between family type home administrators, residents and family members. The ombudsman program has successfully mediated disputes and acts as one of the only day-to-day cost effective services that ensures consistent and fair treatment of seniors who must live in these homes.

The bill would require such facilities to display posters provided by the ombudsman program in several public areas of such facilities. The bill adds no cost to operating facilities because posters are provided free of charge. The bill would help ensure that all residents know that they have someone to call if they believe they need help in resolving any dispute. PASSED BOTH HOUSES-AWAITING GOVERNOR’S SIGNATURE

A5193 Establishes a Senior Vision Services Program- This legislation seeks to provide comprehensive services to elderly persons with functional visual impairments. While the State coordinates services through the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped for individuals who are blind or legally blind, there is no comprehensive mechanism for referring and providing services for individuals who are visually impaired but do not meet the definition of legally blind. New York State’s older citizens are projected to increase dramatically in number during the next decade; in particular, we are experiencing burgeoning growth in the 85 years and older population. Studies by the National Center for Health Statistics find age-related visual impairment to be second only to arthritis and rheumatism as a cause of disability.

NYS Seal

Visually impaired seniors are more prone to falls, burns, depression and more likely to need assistance with activities of daily living. Subsequently, they are more likely to become reliant on personal care services and costly medical services. By intervening in a timely fashion and linking the senior to appropriate medical services, we can assist in maintaining the senior’s health and welfare as well as quality of life. PASSED ASSEMBLY

A3828 This legislation will increase the amount a retired person may earn in public employment without a reduction in retirement benefits during the year 2007 to $30,000. Currently the limit is $27,500. (Signed into Law)




Think You Don’t Know an Adult Who Can’t Read?

You probably do, as about 14 percent of adults in Suffolk County have been assessed at the lowest levels of literacy. What can you do about low literacy in the Town of Babylon? Volunteer two or three hours a week to help an adult learn to read, write, or speak English. The positive reverberations will extend to the life not only of that person and their family but also the community in which you live. Why? Because adults who read have children who read, and people who read are more likely to participate in community life and to fulfill civic responsibilities-including exercising the right to vote.

So, please, consider becoming a tutor with Literacy Suffolk. This nonprofit organization has been providing free literacy services to thousands of county residents for nearly three decades. But to serve the hundreds of adults on the waiting list for tutors, more trained volunteers are needed. Literacy Suffolk will offer a 21-hour tutor workshop at Amityville Public Library on October 17, 19, 24, 26, 31, November 2 and 16, from 5:45 p.m. to 8:45 p. m. To register for this workshop, or to attend the September 26 Q&A to learn whether tutoring is for you, call 631-286-1649 or visit www.LiteracySuffolk.org.




VOLUNTEERS NEEDED!!!

Long Island Head Start is currently seeking volunteer services from churches, schools, retired professionals, and community agencies to assist in providing quality care for Head Start children throughout the year. Services can range from helping prepare meals to providing aerobic classes for the children. Everyone is encouraged to participate.

Please contact Parent and Volunteer Coordinator, Mattie Angus at (631) 758-5200 ext. 135.




OCTOBER IS BREAST CANCER
AWARENESS MONTH

Don’t let lack of money keep you from protecting your health. You Are Not Alone-

Help is just a phone call away. . . Toll-free breast cancer hotline (7 days a week)

ADELPHI NY STATEWIDE
BREAST CANCER HOTLINE & SUPPORT PROGRAM:
1-800-877-8077




Increasing organ donation participation, awareness saves lives

To support the life-saving practice of organ donation and make it easier for New Yorkers to become organ donors, Assemblyman Bob Sweeney supported several measures that passed the Assembly.

Assemblyman Sweeney said the Assembly’s legislation is designed to increase the number of organ donors and to expand the donation program throughout the state. Measures passed include tax incentives for living organ donors, mandatory leaves-of-absence for donors and increased funding for organ donation programs.

Out of the more than 90,000 people waiting for organs throughout the nation, over 8,000 are in New York State. Sadly, the length of the waiting list means an average of 17 people die every day while waiting for an organ donation.

A single individual can help as many as 50 people by becoming an organ donor.

“Every day, someone’s son, daughter, mother, father, sister, brother or friend dies because the compatible organ they desperately need can’t be found on time,” Sweeney said. “Every day, individuals die without properly registering as an organ donor, presenting yet another missed opportunity. However, by simply becoming an organ donor-every day, somebody’s loved one can be saved.”

Among the measures passed is one that driver’s license applications will include an option for a voluntary contribution to the “Life-Pass it On” trust fund, which is used solely for organ donation outreach and research.

Also, to encourage more New Yorkers to become donors, living donors will be eligible for a state tax deduction of up to $10,000 to cover expenses related to organ donation, including lost wages.

To increase the number of registered organ and tissue donors in New York and help patients who are waiting for life-saving transplants, Sweeney said the Assembly’s package contains several measures to enhance the state’s donation program, including:

  • Requiring the state’s transplant council to study the current donation process and determine whether we should move toward a system of “presumed consent,” where it will be assumed that all individuals are donors unless they specify otherwise, which is the standard in many European countries and has resulted in a greatly increased number of donors;

  • Requiring the state Health Department to provide information to the public regarding organ and tissue donations, including how to register to become a donor.

  • Printing organ donors’ wishes prominently on the front of their driver’s license to make sure these requests are evidently visible.

The package also changes the definition of the organ and tissue donor registry from one of intent to consent. Current law requires that even if an individual indicates that they are an organ donor, upon his or her death, hospitals or organ procurement organizations must get consent from next-of-kin before using organs or tissue. This measure makes simply signing up as an organ donor sufficient indication, resulting in more donors helping more individuals.

Plus, to capture the real, more accurate meaning behind the concept of organ donation, the existing organ and tissue registry will be renamed the Donate Life Registry.

All these bills have passed both Houses and await action by the Governor.

“If more New Yorkers were aware of the great impact they could have by becoming organ donors, I’m confident that more people would participate in the program,” Assemblyman Sweeney said. “Also, by making it easier to convey a donor’s wishes, there will be much greater benefit for those who are waiting to receive life-saving organs and tissue.”



Back