By Senator Patty Ritchie
Now that the holidays are winding down, many people are looking to make a fresh start in the New Year. Whether it’s vowing to hit the gym several times a week, cutting back on spending, or keeping in better touch with old friends, we decide to make these resolutions with one goal in mind: bettering ourselves and the world around us.
But it’s not just people.
The Empire State is making some changes, too.
One of the biggest? The reinstatement of extra help for our senior citizens struggling to pay for the prescription medications that keep them healthy. If you’re a senior, or are close to one, you probably know about the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program, or EPIC. EPIC helps more than 280,000 income-eligible seniors (including more than 10,000 in our region) over the age of 65 supplement their out-of-pocket Medicare Part D drug plan costs.
Recently, seniors relying on the program were faced with a harsh reality when due to budget cuts, participants in the program had to hit a nearly $3,000 spending threshold before EPIC would cover out-of-pocket expenses.
I know how important EPIC is to our seniors—that’s why I fought to restore funds to the program in the past two state budgets. Thankfully, beginning on January 1, 2013, EPIC will once again cover co-pays for prescription medications.
Because of the changes, understanding EPIC can be confusing. This past year, I had the opportunity to meet and talk with you about many programs available to New York’s aging population at my Senior Health and Wellness fairs, held in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.
Seniors attending the Oswego County Senior Health and Wellness Fair had the chance to sit down with special guest Senator David Valesky, chair of the Senate’s Aging Committee, who answered their questions about EPIC and the changes to the program.
If you missed the event, there are still plenty of resources you can access to get answers to your questions about EPIC.
To read more about EPIC, or to apply, visit www.health.ny.gov/health_care/epic/
You can also call the toll-free helpline dedicated solely to the program at 1-800-332-3742 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
As we close the books on 2012, I am looking forward to an even better 2013 and continuing to listen to your concerns, and make changes in an effort to make living in our state easier and more enjoyable.
Best wishes to you and your family for a happy and healthy 2013 – and good luck with making your resolution, whatever it might be, stick!