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Published: Monday, 3/21/2005

Drug plan assistance available for seniors

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Julie Dangelo talks to them every day: senior citizens confused about which - if any - prescription discount card they should try.

Unfortunately, she said, most give up.

"People are just saying it's too much hassle," said Ms. Dangelo, executive director of Senior Centers Inc., a downtown Toledo senior center.

The confusion and resulting lack of interest in discount drug cards has prompted the Area Office on Aging of Northwestern Ohio to sponsor a "Prescription Savings Enrollment Summit" from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library downtown. Seniors can come in during that time period and get individualized help from experts who can walk them through the various discount programs offered.

Justin Moor, an Area Office on Aging employee helping coordinate the summit, said one key motivation for hosting the event is to remind seniors who qualify that they must sign up by March 31 to get $600 in help paying for drugs. Senior citizens at incomes below $12,500 if single, and $16,800 if married, can qualify for the money. The Area Office on Aging estimates there are as many as 16,000 eligible seniors in northwest Ohio.

Even those who don't qualify for the $600 would be wise to look into getting a prescription discount card, Mr. Moor said.

"Just about everyone can stand to benefit," he said.

He said experts on hand Thursday will use a computer system that analyzes more than 1,500 drug-savings programs to try and match up the best program for each senior.

Like Ms. Dangelo, Mr. Moor's heard from many seniors confused by the dizzying array of discount options.

"Seniors are overwhelmed with the sheer number of programs out there," he said.

As a result, the Area Office on Aging applied for and received a $40,000 grant to fund the enrollment and educational summit. About 20 experts will be present Thursday to answer questions. In addition, several politicians will be present at 10 a.m. to give their remarks, including U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).

The Area Office on Aging serves Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Paulding, Sandusky, Williams, and Wood counties. Mr. Moor said seniors who need transportation to the event should contact their local senior center. Additional questions can be directed to the Area Office on Aging at 419-382-0624.

Ms. Dangelo said despite all the confusion, she's encouraging area seniors to go to the summit or contact their local senior center if they have questions about discount prescription drug programs. Any little bit helps, she said, adding that "we still see people not purchasing all their medications" because they can't afford them.

Contact Luke Shockman at: lshockman@theblade.com or 419-724-6084.



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