State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., stopped in at the AARP Rego Park/Elmhurst Chapter-Knights of Columbus Hall at 69-60 Grand Ave. in Maspeth on Wednesday, Sept. 19, to discuss changes to the insurance program EPIC.
EPIC, or the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage Program, provides seniors with co-pay assistance for Medicare Part D covered prescription drugs. With the 2012-2013 state budget restored to $30.6 million, co-payment assistance for approximately 300,000 EPIC enrollees splits the program into two plans.
“We want to make sure all of your questions are answered,” said the Department of Health’s Medicare-EPIC Program Representative Gema Diaz, who spoke regarding new adjustments to the program, such as fees and deductibles for members, secondary coverage and out-of-pocket drug costs.
Frances Fedge, a resident of a Sunnyside, said the new adjustments had been very confusing for her. With previous cuts to the past year’s EPIC program, Fedge, 83, said she had been paying an expensive deductible for her heart medication, Plavix.
With the current restorations, she now only has to pay $6. “For now, I’m satisfied,” she said.
Sandra Schafferman, a resident of Rego Park, said that though she had private insurance, she would recommend EPIC for anyone who qualified. “If I didn’t have my own insurance, I would go on it,” Schafferman said. “It cuts name brands by half.”
“Changes to EPIC” lectures will continue in October at three other senior centers in Addabbo’s district.
ObamaCare, also formally known as “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” also poses changes for insurance programs, health care providers and small business owners.
Sher Sparano, president of the Benefits Advisory Service, Inc., discussed changes regarding the bill at the LIC/Astoria Chamber of Commerce meeting on Thurs., Sept. 20. She said that ObamaCare would mean big changes in particular for small business owners.
“There are significant compliance hurdles ahead,” Sparano said, who emphasized that small businesses offering health benefits would no longer be able to exclude employees with pre-existing conditions and many businesses with mostly part-time employees, such as restaurants, catering halls and bus companies, would receive less tax credits.
For small business owners, Sparano also said they should be thinking three to five years in advance because of the law’s financial impacts. Upheld 5-4 by the Supreme Court on June 28, 2012, ObamaCare will go into effect in 2014.
Sparano added that some of the positive aspects of the bill included expanded women’s coverage, which will provide free generic oral contraceptives.
At the end of the discussion, Sparano advised strong communication with clientele.
“Increase employee satisfaction with your benefits,” Sparano said. “Let them know what you’re spending.”