Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Queens and Brooklyn) and members of his staff last Friday hit the streets of Rego Park to answer questions and listen to concerns of constituents as part of his mobile office tour.
The tour was designed to assist those members of the communities Weiner represents who are unable to visit one of his three district offices, and also made a stop in Fresh Meadows.
One of the issues voiced last week outside Met Food Markets on 63rd Drive was the Medicare doughnut hole, or the prescription drug coverage gap, many seniors have fallen into.
Seniors find themselves stuck in the gap if the cost of their prescriptions is too high to be paid by basic Medicare, but not high enough to be eligible for catastrophic coverage. Once in the gap, beneficiaries are left to pay all costs on their own until their expenses exceed $6,440.
Rego Park resident Frances Rotkopf is one of these seniors. Rotkopf said that because of the doughnut hole and its eligibility limits, she “gets no assistance from [my] assistance.”
Referring to aid the federal government started sending out this June to help those who fall into the gap, she said “Two hundred fifty dollars they want to give us — that’s nothing compared to what we’re paying.”
Weiner, who said Medicare should be based on the products and health services seniors actually buy and use, agreed.
“This dopey bill created a doughnut hole,” he said regarding the Medicare Part D program that generated the gap. “My dad pays $1,300. That’s a lot for a retired guy.”
Prior to the program’s establishment under the Bush administration, the cost of drugs wasn’t covered at all.
Weiner also addressed tax cuts for the middle class he said he has long supported, for “people who are in the $250,000 to $60,000 bracket. That iconic family. The family who has a kid in public school, and a kid in SUNY. We don’t do a lot for them,” he said.
Weiner believes a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class would help lessen the gap between “the rich and everyone else,” and would “restore progressivity and fairness.” He would make up for lost revenue with new surcharges of 7 percent and 10 percent, respectively, on income above $1 million or $1 billion.
And while most constituents were concerned with taxes and healthcare, many others simply stopped by to congratulate Weiner for standing up for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act on the House floor two weeks ago after it failed to gain enough votes from Republicans to pass.
“I think he’s the most courageous member of Congress,” said Rhick Bose of Rego Park, a recent college graduate. “You can’t really find a more courageous politician.”