WisconsinCare Proposal a Positive Step for Seniors
by Congressman Paul Ryan
There have been so many life-saving advances in health care over the past forty-two years. Unfortunately, Medicare, which was created in 1965, hasn't always kept up with these advances.
A few years ago, Congress took a major step to update the program with prescription drug coverage to help lower the cost of seniors' medications, while making sure they can still choose their doctor and pharmacy and have a choice of coverage plans. So, when the Administration decided to limit Wisconsin seniors' choices by not granting a long-term waiver for the SeniorCare program, I was very troubled and worked to make sure Wisconsin got a short-term extension through the end of this year to ease the transition for seniors.
Recently, the governor announced a new WisconsinCare plan to continue providing additional benefits to seniors and improve upon Medicare's drug benefit. I am very encouraged that our Governor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have been working hand-in-hand to put together a plan that will help Wisconsin seniors, ease the transition from SeniorCare, and improve upon Medicare Part D.
According to the Governor's outline of the new wrap-around benefit, all Wisconsin seniors who are 1) enrolled in Medicare; 2) have an annual income of less than $24,504 ($32,856 for a married couple); and 3) are not getting Medicaid, will be eligible for WisconsinCare. Seniors currently in SeniorCare whose income is less than these amounts will be signed up for WisconsinCare automatically. All WisconsinCare participants will still need to select a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan, and benefits specialists around the state can assist seniors and their families with this decision, so they can find the plan that best fits them.
WisconsinCare benefits vary depending on participants' income. For example, for married couples with gross annual income between $19,166 and $21,904, WisconsinCare will pay all Medicare Part B premiums, along with Medicare Part D premiums, deductibles, and drug costs in the "doughnut hole".
The fact that we obtained the six-month extension for SeniorCare and the state has already come forward with a solid plan that the federal government is expected to approve should give Wisconsin seniors time for a smooth transition.