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Pound Ridge Hosts Forum on Senior Issues

POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – Issues such as healthcare, homecare and the cost of prescription drugs were at the fore when Supervisor Gary Warshauer hosted a senior citizen’s forum this past weekend at the Pound Ridge Town House.

Warshauer was joined on the panel by Assemblyman Robert J. Castelli (R, C – Goldens Bridge) and State Sen. Greg Ball (R, C – Patterson) as they listened to the concerns of the seniors and took questions during a spirited Q&A session.

Present in the audience were several dozen seniors from Pound Ridge, concerned residents and Pound Ridge council members Jon Powers and Dick Lyman.

Westchester’s status as the highest-taxed county in the United States weighed heavily on the minds of those in attendance and Castelli noted that he had authored a bill that would freeze taxes for seniors. The legislation would provide for a local option for municipalities to freeze real property tax payments and assessments of senior citizens 65 years of age of older or the disabled.

Castelli said long-term care is an ever-growing component of the cost of Medicaid in New York State.

“It is important to encourage citizens to make arrangements to cover the cost of nursing home care through long-term care insurance, both to protect their assets from the high cost of such care, and to control the cost to the state for such care,” he said. “A first step in reforming the State’s long term care system is to promote personal responsibility by increasing access to affordable long term care insurance.”

One audience member suggested drafting legislation to cap long-term care insurance premium rate hikes at the rate of inflation, as well as prohibiting an insurer from barring access to long-term care insurance based off of pre-existing conditions.

Castelli said he has helped sponsor the NYS Compact for Long-Term Care bill, which, if passed, would allow eligible individuals to enter into an agreement with the state. When an enrollee pledges to pay for a certain amount of qualified long term care services, in return for making this pledge, the state will provide the benefits to individuals participating in the agreement, including allowing them to retain 75 percent of their income.

The assemblyman highlighted changes made this year to New York’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program. It was restructured in the 2011 state budget to maximize prescription drug savings. Provisions now provide EPIC coverage for drug costs solely to those costs incurred by seniors in the Medicare Part D coverage gap, which is also called the “doughnut hole.”

The panel pointed out that in 2011, the state legislature considered many other issues related to seniors, including developing means of tracking missing vulnerable adults, improving care in adult care facilities, ensuring that the needs of the state’s aging veterans are met, and strengthening the state’s network of senior centers.

There is currently legislation in Albany that would make it easier to stop financial exploitation of the elderly and the disabled.

There is also pending legislation that would expand the crime of endangering the welfare of a vulnerable elderly person, to those actions committed against any person over the age of 70, and make these crimes one category higher when the defendant targets a victim because they believe the victim to be elderly or disabled, whether or not that belief is correct.

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