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Representative Jerry Stern tackles health and lifestyle issues

(Editor’s note: The following is the fourth part in a series offering Daily Herald readers a closer look at Republican State Representative Jerry Stern.)

Local state Representative Jerry Stern is not bashful when it comes to where he stands on tax initiatives in Pennsylvania. He said simply, “no new taxes.”
The phrase used by Stern could reflect his strong conservative roots as he echoed the words once uttered by a former president during a campaign many years ago.
Stern took issue with some of Governor Ed Rendell’s initiatives to boost the state coffers by adding additional taxes to cigarettes. Stern said the governor is looking for an additional 25 cents per pack on cigarettes. The legislator does not think this is a good idea.
“After you tax to a certain degree, you’ll see people travel out of state to buy their cigarettes or use the Internet.” said Stern. He explained retailers are also expressing concerns as they’ve seen an increase in theft.
“You are defeating the purpose when you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on tobacco settlement money to try to get people to cut back or quit smoking and then consider using cigarettes as a source of new revenue through new taxes,” Stern told The Daily Herald during an extensive interview conducted last week at his Tipton office.
Stern also expressed his viewpoints on The new tougher DUI laws that are now in effect in the commonwealth. Although he supports the lowering of the blood alcohol limit from .10 to .08 as is now the case, he did not support the reason behind the most recent legislation passing and being signed into law by the governor.
“I’m a purist. I believe in the 10th amendment, state’s rights,” said Stern.
Due to a federal mandate, states were required to amend their drunk driving laws or risk losing federal highway money. Stern explained there has been legislation proposed for years regarding lower blood alcohol limits to .08 and he generally has supported the idea. He felt it was a good piece of legislation but in concluding his remarks on the subject once again emphasized his belief in the Constitution and its state’s rights amendment.
Stern also briefly mentioned during his time with The Daily Herald last week, the state senate taking up new prescription drug legislation level. Stern’s prediction came true earlier this week when the senate took up the issue on Tuesday and the governor signed it into law on Wednesday. Below are some details on the legislation provided through the Associated Press.
As of Jan. 1, the number of low-income senior citizens who qualify for low-cost prescription drugs through the state’s Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly programs is expected to increase from 600,000 to about 1 million under the bill.
Because many of those people have other forms of drug coverage, only about 224,000 are currently are enrolled in the programs. About 100,000 more are expected to sign up under the new law.
Here’s a look at the major changes:
•The income limits for participants in PACE, which has no deductible, will increase from $14,000 to $14,500 for individuals, and from $17,200 to $17,700 for married couples;
•Income limits for PACENET, a related program for seniors with higher incomes, will change from $17,000 to $23,500 for individuals, and from $20,200 to $31,500 for couples. Also, the $500-a-year deductible that participants must pay to receive the benefit will be changed to $40 per month; and
•To help finance the increased benefits, the PACE copayment amount will increase from $6 to $9 per prescription for name-brand drugs, but the $6 copayment for generic drugs will remain unchanged. PACENET participants’ higher copayment — $8 and $15, respectively — also will not change. Neither program charges a premium.
Highlights of PACE/PACENET expansion
As of Jan. 1, the number of low-income senior citizens who qualify for low-cost prescription drugs through the state’s Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly programs is expected to increase from 600,000 to about 1 million under the bill that Gov. Ed Rendell signed Wednesday.
Because many of those people have other forms of drug coverage, only about 224,000 are currently are enrolled in the programs. About 100,000 more are expected to sign up under the new law.
Here’s a look at the major changes:
•The income limits for participants in PACE, which has no deductible, will increase from $14,000 to $14,500 for individuals, and from $17,200 to $17,700 for married couples;
•Income limits for PACENET, a related program for seniors with higher incomes, will change from $17,000 to $23,500 for individuals, and from $20,200 to $31,500 for couples. Also, the $500-a-year deductible that participants must pay to receive the benefit will be changed to $40 per month; and
•To help finance the increased benefits, the PACE copayment amount will increase from $6 to $9 per prescription for name-brand drugs, but the $6 copayment for generic drugs will remain unchanged. PACENET participants’ higher copayment — $8 and $15, respectively — also will not change. Neither program charges a premium.
The Daily Herald series on 80 District State Representative Jerry Stern will conclude tomorrow.
(The Associated Press contributed to portions of this article.)