"Since my days as Chairman of the Wisconsin State Senate's Aging Committee, I have placed particular focus on issues affecting seniors in Wisconsin and throughout our country.
Seniors have made America what it is today and have earned our respect and admiration. We must never forget the contributions they have made and the wisdom they offer. As I travel throughout our state and listen to seniors, I am reminded of the challenges they confront every day and am concerned that we are not doing enough. We must support our seniors with good, affordable health care and do all that we can to ensure their financial security. Today's seniors face medical bills and prescription drug costs that are skyrocketing, and these escalating costs of living threaten to quickly deplete seniors' life savings.
Protecting Medicare and Social Security has been and will continue to be my top fiscal priority, bar none. By working to cut government pork and reduce deficits, I am trying to ensure that these vital programs will remain strong and adequately funded. We cannot risk the security of our seniors with shortsighted planning and imprudent spending. I have introduced legislation to improve Medicare coverage and to prevent the government from using Social Security funds for other programs."
- Senator Russ Feingold
Success in Saving SeniorCare -- Only in Washington would a successful program be threatened with elimination. But that's exactly what faced Wisconsin's popular senior drug coverage program, SeniorCare. In April of 2007, the Bush Administration declined Wisconsin's waiver that would have allowed our state to keep SeniorCare up and running following the passage of the flawed Medicare Part D program. Russ voted against Medicare Part D, in part, because of the threat it posed to SeniorCare. However, Russ, along with Senator Herb Kohl and Congressman Dave Obey was able to negotiate for the inclusion of SeniorCare protections into a larger spending bill in May 2007 that President Bush signed. The extension of SeniorCare runs through the end of 2012.
More work needs to be done to extend SeniorCare beyond 2012. During the presidential campaign, President Obama signaled that he supported the extension of SeniorCare and Russ will continue his work with Wisconsin's delegation to make that happen.
Fighting for a Meaningful Prescription Drug Benefit -- We must ensure good health care with a prescription drug benefit under Medicare for all seniors. Russ voted against the Medicare Part D prescription drug bill because it was an attack on Medicare. It doesn't provide an adequate prescription drug benefit and threatens to privatize Medicare. It fails seniors, and is a handout for big HMOs, insurance companies, and drug companies, including direct subsidies of $12 billion. It also restricts the re-importation of lower-cost U.S.-made drugs from Canada, and expressly prohibits Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices like private insurance companies do. It also has threatened Wisconsin's successful prescription drug program for seniors called SeniorCare.
Working to Fix the Problems with the New Medicare Law -- Russ is working to fix many of the problems in the flawed Medicare Part D prescription drug program. He is a cosponsor of the bipartisan Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act, which would allow the safe reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada. He has also introduced legislation to allow the federal government to negotiate the prices of prescription drugs offered under Medicare, and cosponsored efforts to close loopholes that stall generic prescription drugs from coming to market. He has introduced bills to protect seniors who choose to buy prescription drugs from Canada from being discriminated against and to make companies offering the new Medicare prescription drug discount card pass along at least 90% of the savings they negotiate with pharmaceutical companies onto beneficiaries. He has also introduced legislation to eliminate over $10 billion of the slush fund for HMOs and PPOs included in the new law. The fund does nothing for people who rely on Medicare, but hands over billions of dollars to HMOs. Each year, more than 150,000 Wisconsin seniors fall into the Medicare Part D "donut hole." Health insurance reform closes the Medicare Part D "donut hole" which will reduce out-of-pocket costs for Wisconsin seniors. Reform also guarantees first-dollar coverage for preventive and wellness care. The bill fixes an unfair Medicare reimbursement formula that has penalized Wisconsin medical providers that are focused on high-quality, rather than high-cost care. The new health reform law will begin to reward providers based on the quality of care they provide patients.
Protecting Social Security -- For years, some in Washington have argued for privatizing Social Security, and for years Russ has opposed those types of efforts in the Senate. Fortunately, given the current fiscal and economic crisis, Social Security wasn't privatized. However, there is little doubt that once the markets pick up again, we'll hear the same arguments for privatization. Russ will continue to fight any effort that puts Social Security at risk -- and that also means opposing any efforts that use Social Security Trust Fund money to pay for new spending programs or tax cuts.
Recognition of Senator Feingold's Work on Behalf of Seniors -- The 2.5 million-member Alliance for Retired Americans has given Russ a perfect score of 100 in its Congressional Voting Record, which evaluates votes cast by members of the U.S. House and Senate. Senator Feingold has been recognized by both the National Association of Home Care and Hospice and the Wisconsin Homecare Organization in multiple years as their "Home Care Hero" for his leadership on issues important to seniors. He has also been honored by the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups for his efforts to save Wisconsin's SeniorCare program, and the Wisconsin AARP recently thanked Russ for his vote to close the Medicare Part D "donut hole" and provide better, more affordable health care to Wisconsin's seniors.