U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind, and Gwen Moore, along with U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, today sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), urging extension of Wisconsin's popular SeniorCare program. The letter emphasized SeniorCare's tremendous value to Wisconsin seniors and the federal government because of its ability to negotiate prescription drug prices directly with drug manufacturers.
"By bargaining directly with drug manufacturers, SeniorCare provides Wisconsin seniors with a quality, affordable prescription drug benefit," said Baldwin. "I strongly support extending SeniorCare in Wisconsin, as well as using the program as a model to lower prescription drug prices for all Americans."
"SeniorCare is not only working, it saves money for participants and taxpayers," Sen. Kohl said. "It's a great and successful investment that needs to be preserved and emulated."
"SeniorCare has saved Wisconsin seniors millions of dollars on prescription drugs and continues to provide important benefits to thousands of seniors across our great state," said Rep. Kind. "Not only is SeniorCare a cost-effective model to providing affordable medication, but it is a valuable tool in cutting health care costs at the federal level now and in the long run."
"I am pleased to join my colleagues in supporting Wisconsin's SeniorCare renewal application," Rep. Moore said. "This is a program that has made a real difference in seniors' quality of life, allowing them to afford the prescriptions they need to care for their health. With so many seniors on tight, fixed incomes, we must do all we can to protect SeniorCare now and for years to come."
Since its creation in 2002, SeniorCare's power to bargain directly with drug manufacturers has saved Wisconsin seniors hundreds of millions of dollars in manufacturer rebates. On average, these rebates pay for over 40 percent of SeniorCare costs. In 2010 alone, SeniorCare's negotiating powers saved seniors $80 million. The program's benefits are passed on to the federal government through reduced Medicare and Medicaid spending.
Unlike SeniorCare, Medicare legally prohibits the Secretary of HHS from negotiating lower prescription drug prices for seniors. This sweetheart deal, made with big pharmaceutical companies during the creation in 2003 of Medicare Part D, has resulted in higher drug prices for Medicare recipients and increased costs for taxpayers. Congresswoman Baldwin recently introduced legislation in the House (the Negotiating for Seniors Act), to repeal that sweetheart deal, reducing drug costs and keeping savings from future drug price negotiations within Medicare. Her legislation is largely inspired by the success of drug price negotiations in Wisconsin.
SeniorCare operates through a special Medicaid waiver obtained through HHS. Though the current waiver is set to expire at the end of the year, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently submitted an application to HHS for a three-year extension through 2015. The Members' letter urged quick approval of that extension request.