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Comptroller’s Report Howard S. Weitzman

Weitzman: Nassau Drug Discount Can Be Used for Pets

Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman reminds Nassau County residents that their Nassau Rx Prescription Discount card can also be used for discounts on some pet prescriptions.

“Many medicines for pets are the same as for humans,” Weitzman said. “Pet owners can fill many of their pet’s prescriptions at your local pharmacy and use their NassauRx card to receive a discount. All cardholders, whether human or animal, can save on prescription medications, at more than 90 percent of Nassau pharmacies.”

According to Dr. Robert Henrickson, DVM of the Manhasset Animal Hospital in Manhasset, drugs used by both dogs and humans include most antibiotics, cortisone creams and pills, eye medicines, some heart disease medicines, phenobarbital for seizures, theophylline for breathing problems, lasix, antifungals such as lomotil and conofite and some vitamins and minerals.

Drugs that would not be covered include heartworm medication and flea and tick products.

Dr. Keith Niesenbaum, VMD, of Crawford Dog and Cat Hospital in Garden City Park, stated, “As the cost of living increases here on Long Island for pets and their owners, many people are looking for ways to save money on veterinary expenses without compromising the quality of care that their pets receive. While many medications and supplements that we administer to our pets have no human equivalent, many are available through regular pharmacies.”

In order to qualify for the pet discount:

• The NassauRx card-holder must have a valid prescription for the pet

• The medication must be one that has a human equivalent. Your vet should able to tell you if you can fill your pet’s prescription at a regular retail pharmacy.

“Owners who are interested in obtaining medications from their pharmacy should ask their veterinarians if there is an equivalent drug that they can use for their pet,” Dr. Niesenbaum said.

• Add your pet’s name to your NassauRx card by printing one out from your computer, or call 516-571-2677. Comptroller Weitzman created the NassauRx prescription drug discount card in 2004. The card provides a discount, averaging 24 percent, for those who do not have drug insurance – and the program costs taxpayers nothing. The program has saved Nassau residents more than $12 million since it began in 2004. County residents who wish to obtain a NassauRx card or program information can call 571-2677, or visithttp://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/Comptroller/nassauRx.html and print the card for themselves and family members. The site also allows consumers to check the NassauRx price for any drug covered under the plan. More information on NassauRx can be found on the Comptroller’s Web site at: http://www.nassaucountyny.gov/agencies/comptroller/index.html.

Veterinarians caution that all pet owners should check the dosage formulation on any human medication before giving it to their pets. Owners should not give their pets over-the-counter medications intended for people without first consulting with their veterinarians, as these can often lead to serious side effects, including severe illness or death. According to Dr. Niesenbaum, even one extra-strength Tylenol can be lethal to a cat and ibuprofen can cause serious G.I. upset or kidney disease.

Weitzman Commends DiNapoli’s Audit of State Health Insurance

Savings for Long Island Could Reach $100 M

Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman today commended State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and his staff on their recent audit of State health insurance over-charges. The audit was initiated in part at the request of Weitzman, who has been focusing on the insurance plan’s premium setting process and management of surplus reserves since 2008. Last year, NYSHIP agreed to hold its rate increase to less than 2% as a result of a report released by Weitzman and County Executive Thomas Suozzi showing that the New York State Health Insurance Program (NYSHIP) was over-collecting premiums from local governments and had accumulated an excessive $540 million on top of statutory reserves. Weitzman and Suozzi have continued to work with the State to bring down the 2010 premium rate, and obtained a commitment that it would be no more than a 3.5% increase, which Governor Paterson announced yesterday.

The state comptroller’s audit confirmed that the Department of Civil Service, which administers NYSHIP, has over-accumulated as much as $600 million in health care premiums that could be used to bring down premium rates, providing savings for taxpayers throughout New York State, but especially on Long Island where almost every school and local government participates in NYSHIP.

“Potential savings for local governments, including school districts, on Long Island could easily reach more than $100 million,” Weitzman said. “That is why County Executive Tom Suozzi and I will continue to work with NYSHIP to ensure that excess premiums are returned to taxpayers by keeping rate increases at historic lows.”

Following the county’s report last fall, the state agreed with the findings and applied some of the excessive premium to keep the 2009 rate increase low. This effort saved Nassau County taxpayers approximately $11 million in health insurance premiums for 2009 and approximately $116 million for local schools and governments in Nassau County. Comptroller Weitzman and the County Executive continue to work to recoup a portion of the excess NYSHIP premiums charged in prior years – an amount equal to $540 million state-wide and $21 million for Nassau County, that could made as a one month premium holiday for all NYSHIP participants.

“NYSHIP needs to operate with more transparency, allowing state and participating agencies to access data,” said Weitzman. “This audit will certainly help move us in that direction.”

Recently Comptroller Weitzman received an appointment to the New York State Health Insurance Program Participating Agency Advisory Council (PAAC). Nassau County is the largest local government participating agency in NYSHIP and prior to his appointment, no one from Nassau County had served on the board.