When state lawmakers approved the budget this week, they restored a program that's vital to many senior citizens. Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage, known as EPIC, helps low and moderate income seniors with co-pays for prescription drugs not covered by Medicare Part-D. When it was defunded last year, seniors were forced to pay 25% of the costs of prescriptions. This made necessary prescriptions unaffordable for some.
Pharmacists at drug stores like the Gifford and West Pharmacy in Syracuse ran into a lot of problems when EPIC stopped helping seniors pay for prescription drugs. Gifford pharmacist Jim McLaughlin encountered many patients who had high co-pays and were forced to pay.
"It ends up costing more. Patients go without their medications and their symptoms start to come back, or they end up being hospitalized," McLaughlin said.
Chris Verillo, pharmacist and owner of C&J's Northside Pharmacy, also in Syracuse, was left scrambling to find alternatives.
Verillo said that they have gotten to the point where they call doctors' offices and get patients on a different medication if there's no generic. "Just to save money until they get to a point where they're going to be able to afford it again," she said.
On many occasions, patients simply have to choose which prescriptions they're going to get and which prescriptions they aren't going to get. They have to make sacrifices.
New York State will now return $30.6 million to the EPIC program. The program will go into effect on January 1, 2013.