Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) was recently thanked by close to forty members of the AARP at a meeting outside his office in Smithtown. The local seniors were taking part in a "whistle stop" bus tour to rally state lawmakers to help make prescription drugs more affordable and to help assure passage of consumer protections for cell phone customers.
As the prime sponsor of the "Wireless Telephone Consumer Protection Act" and a sponsor of legislation that would create a bulk purchasing program for pharmaceuticals to lower the costs of these vital purchases, Senator Flanagan’s efforts were praised by those who visited his office.
The cell phone legislation sponsored by Senator Flanagan would require cell phone companies to provide more detailed coverage maps, including where the e-911 function works during an emergency, allow people to cancel their contract fifteen days after receiving their first bill without having to pay hefty penalties and call for greater disclosure of fees.
The main component of the act is the introduction of the trial period. By utilizing this period to assess their agreement, New York State consumers would be able to make a more informed and practical decision about their new service and ensure that providers provide the best service possible.
"AARP commends Senator Flanagan for sponsoring this much needed consumer protection bill. Most seniors buy a cell phone to use in case of an emergency. Improved maps and disclosures will allow them to know whether or not their phone will work in a certain area," said Bill Hall, a Setauket resident and Volunteer Regional Coordinator for AARP on Long Island. "In addition, many people on fixed incomes are finding themselves locked into unaffordable contracts because the amount billed is frequently higher than the advertised price."
A third piece of legislation that AARP is calling for and Senator Flanagan supports would require pharmaceutical drug companies to disclose gifts over $75 that they provide to health care providers. This would deliver transparency to the prescription drug market and provide some accountability from the drug companies.
According to the AARP, pharmaceutical companies spend over $7 billion a year on gifts, such as meals, trips and entertainment, to doctors to persuade them to prescribe newer and, in many cases, more expensive drugs when generic and less expensive alternatives are just as effective. According to a report in the April 2007 New England Journal of Medicine, 94% of doctors report having some type of relationship with pharmaceutical companies.
"Enhancing the access seniors have to prescription drugs and offering greater consumer protections must be a priority. I appreciate the support of the members of the AARP and thank those who visited my office for providing their input. I will continue to work to enact these very important reforms and to make sure that the voices of those who took the time to visit me is heard in Albany," stated Senator Flanagan.
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