The recent News story on New York's prescription drug coverage for the elderly merits further discussion.
Some readers are likely to have the perception that the state program is becoming more expensive or cumbersome to use. This is not so.
While a number of other states have senior drug programs, New York leads the nation in ensuring seniors have access to affordable and comprehensive coverage.
The Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage program, known asEPIC, helps more than 350,000 seniors pay for more than $1 billion in prescription medicines they need to live healthy and active lives.
Due to a recent change in state law, seniors in EPIC will now save even more because EPIC will cover the cost of basic Medicare Part D coverage for participants to use in combination with their EPIC coverage.
Seniors will not incur any additional cost to join Part D and, by using the two plans together, will actually save more at the pharmacy while having access to all the same drugs they currently buy through EPIC.
For example, if an EPIC senior has Part D coverage that requires a $25 co-payment on a $100 brand-name drug, the $25 co-payment will be covered by EPIC and the enrollee would pay only a $7 EPIC co-payment. Without Part D coverage, the senior would have paid a $20 EPIC co-payment.
Many EPIC participants are already enrolled in Medicare Part D. For those who need to join a Part D plan, EPIC is making it easy by selecting and enrolling them in a basic Medicare drug plan based on the latest drugs and pharmacies they use, unless they wish to choose a different plan.
Regardless of the plan they join,EPIC will protect them against any added cost by covering drug costs not paid by Medicare drug plans such as deductibles, co-payments, co-insurance, coverage gap and any drugs not covered.
Just to reiterate, seniors will not lose their EPIC coverage. Instead, they will gain Medicare Part D drug coverage at no additional cost -- only savings.
Expanding access to affordable, comprehensive prescription drug coverage for New York's seniors is a priority of both Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer and the State Department of Health. Our commitment to EPIC benefits has not changed.
EPIC is eager to continue to provide New York's seniors with excellent coverage and greater savings. People with questions about this information or about EPIC and the Medicare prescription drug benefit can call the EPICHelpline toll-free at 1-800-332-3742 or visit www.nyhealth.gov.
We want to help all EPIC enrollees move into a Part D plan that will best suit them.
Richard F. Daines, M.D., is commissioner of the New York State Health Department.