Today the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation applauded the announcement by Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle that SeniorCare, Wisconsin's popular senior drug coverage program, has received a waiver to allow it to continue operation through December 31, 2012. SeniorCare currently has over 86,000 Wisconsin seniors on its rolls. Until today's announcement, the program was set to expire at the end of this year.
U.S. Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold and Congressman Dave Obey led the entire delegation in a bipartisan November 2008 letter to then-President-Elect Barack Obama and a March 2009 letter to HHS officials, urging them to approve Governor Doyle's application for a three-year extension of the program. The Senators also reached out individually to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Peter Orszag, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley (R-IA) over the course of many months in order to make the case for an extension of SeniorCare. It is estimated that continuing SeniorCare will save the federal government millions of dollars.
Wisconsin's SeniorCare is the only program of its kind left in the United States that offers state residents an alternative to Medicare Part D. In 2007, after repeated attempts to have the previous administration grant a waiver to keep the program running beyond June 30 of that year, Kohl and Feingold negotiated for inclusion of a provision to extend SeniorCare's operation through 2009 in the Senate version of an emergency supplemental spending bill, while Congressman Dave Obey (WI-07) served as the principal House negotiator for the final package that included the extension. President Bush later signed the bill into law, which also included funding for disaster aid, veterans' health, agricultural disasters, and other emergency funding.
"The administration made the right decision. It must have been clear to them, as it is to me, that SeniorCare is vital and could not be allowed to expire. I want to congratulate Governor Doyle for making this happen," said Senator Kohl, who serves as chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
"I am pleased President Obama has followed through on his promise to extend SeniorCare and ensure that Wisconsin seniors have access to affordable prescription drugs," Senator Feingold said. "Not only do Wisconsin's seniors win with this announcement, but so do taxpayers since SeniorCare will save tens of millions of dollars in the years ahead."
"This decision is right on the money. SeniorCare provides an efficient, easy to understand alternative for prescription drug coverage benefiting Wisconsin's seniors. I am glad that it's going to continue," said Congressman Obey. "In the past, we had to fight tooth and nail to keep SeniorCare alive. So I'm especially happy that we've now got an Administration that understands how important SeniorCare is and is working with us to keep it going. It's clear that SeniorCare works for Wisconsin's seniors."
"Today is a good day for both Wisconsin seniors and taxpayers. SeniorCare is a cost effective program that works for Wisconsin seniors. I am happy that the Administration agreed that when a state figures out how to do something right, it should be allowed to continue," said Congressman Tom Petri.
"I am extremely thankful for the Obama Administration's decision to extend Wisconsin's SeniorCare waiver," said Congressman Ron Kind. "Seniors all over Wisconsin repeatedly tell me what a life-saver the SeniorCare program is to them, and their interests are our top priority. This program is a pillar of innovation, saving millions of dollars while providing more comprehensive and less expensive coverage than Medicare Part D. Simply put, Wisconsin's program should be a model for the federal government, not the other way around."
"I am pleased that this important program will be extended for Wisconsin's seniors. As the health care debate continues in Congress and throughout the country, it is my hope that our delegation will work together to make sure all Americans, including our seniors, have access to quality health care," said Congressman Paul Ryan.
"SeniorCare is living proof of a highly successful public insurance plan option that serves as a model of how public and private plans may compete and thrive in our health care system. I'm proud to support this public plan option that benefits so many seniors in our state," said Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.
"It's about time we had an administration willing to take a cue from health care delivery systems that work," Congresswoman Gwen Moore said. "President Obama knows that SeniorCare gives seniors in our state affordable access to the prescription drugs they need - it works! Part of comprehensive health care reform is going to be getting pharmaceutical costs for seniors under control, and I am glad that Wisconsin's seniors have a head start with Senior Care."
"As a physician, I know first-hand that SeniorCare works. It guarantees that Wisconsin's senior citizens in need have access to the prescription drugs their doctors believe are best for them. SeniorCare saves lives and tax dollars by keeping our parents and our neighbors healthy," said Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D.