Today, U.S. Senator Herb Kohl and U.S. Representatives Ron Kind, Tammy Baldwin and Gwen Moore urged the Walker Administration to stop pursuing proposed changes to the popular SeniorCare prescription drug program included in the state budget proposal. In a letter to Governor Walker, the Wisconsin lawmakers pledged to intervene if the state moved forward with changes that would dismantle the program.
They wrote: "We urge you to not push forward with your budget proposal to alter the program. Should your administration pursue this proposal or any other harmful change with the Department of Health and Human Services, we will urge Secretary Sebelius to reject them."
Under the current federal SeniorCare waiver, which extends the program through 2012, any change to the program must be approved by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
In 2007 and 2009, the Wisconsin delegation fought to extend the SeniorCare program, which was established by Gov. Tommy Thompson in 2002.
The full text of the letter is copied:
April 20, 2011
The Honorable Scott Walker
Governor of the State of Wisconsin
115 East Capitol
Madison, WI 53707
Dear Governor Walker:
Since 2002, Wisconsin has benefitted from the extremely successful and popular prescription drug program SeniorCare. Currently there are 91,000 seniors enrolled in SeniorCare, which provides them an affordable, comprehensive and easy-to-understand drug benefit. In addition to providing exceptional drug coverage, the program saves taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by directly negotiating for discounts from pharmaceutical companies.
Despite the great achievements of this program, your proposed budget would require all SeniorCare beneficiaries to enroll in a Medicare Part D private plan. This would effectively remove the many benefits that seniors like about the program such as quick enrollment, straight-forward benefits, and a generous drug formulary.
It is our understanding that before you can implement changes to SeniorCare, you would need federal approval under the terms of the 1115 Medicaid waiver that authorizes the program. The current SeniorCare waiver, which we strongly supported and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, approved shortly after she took office, expires at the end of 2012. When asked, Secretary Sebelius confirmed that the changes to SeniorCare envisioned by your budget would not be permissible during this waiver period without federal approval.
The SeniorCare program is a popular, cost-efficient program. We urge you to not push forward with your budget proposal to alter the program. Should your administration pursue this proposal or any other harmful change with the Department of Health and Human Services, we will urge Secretary Sebelius to reject them.
Wisconsin seniors deserve the best prescription drug program available, and that program is SeniorCare. Time and again, we have fought to protect this program. We will continue to do everything in our power to keep SeniorCare healthy and we hope you will join us in these efforts.
Senator Herb Kohl
Rep. Ron Kind
Rep. Tammy Baldwin
Rep. Gwen Moore
SeniorCare Fact Sheet
SeniorCare saves Wisconsin seniors money every day
With a $30 annual enrollment fee, copayments ranging from $5 to $15 and no gaps in coverage, SeniorCare provides more comprehensive and less expensive coverage than Medicare Part D.
SeniorCare saves Taxpayers money every day
According to the Department of Health in Wisconsin, in 2009, the average annual federal cost per enrollee for SeniorCare was $588, less than half the $1,690 federal government spent to subsidize a Part D participant. SeniorCare negotiates lower drug prices and saved $80 million in 2010 alone. SeniorCare currently has a $20 million surplus that the State of Wisconsin wants to use to plug the budget deficit.
The state plan to change SeniorCare will boost drug company profits at the expense of Wisconsin's lowest income seniors
Because Medicare Part D does not negotiate drug prices, most, if not all, Wisconsin seniors enrolled in SeniorCare would see the cost of their medicines rise. Wisconsin would no longer receive drug rebates through negotiation, further padding drug company profits.
Any change to SeniorCare must be approved by the Health and Human Services Secretary
Under the terms of the 1115 Medicaid waiver that authorizes the program, changes to SeniorCare are prohibited without federal approval.