Will Wisconsin Seniors Pay More for Drugs?

For the second time during his tenure, Wisconsin State Governor Scott Walker is proposing to cut the state’s popular SeniorCare prescription drug program by requiring Wisconsin's seniors to first enroll in the federal government’s Medicare Part D prescription coverage.

The majority of elderly in Wisconsin like the system the way it is. Some 85,000 SeniorCare members across Wisconsin pay a yearly $30 enrollment fee as well as co-pays of $5 for generic drugs and $15 for name-brand drugs, with no gaps in coverage. Medicare Part D can cost $30-$40 monthly and many plans include deductibles.

Governor Walker’s office disagrees. "In some cases, SeniorCare deductibles are higher than Medicare Part D," Laurel Patrick, a spokesperson for Gov. Walker, wrote in a statement to 27 News, Madison, WI.  "Also there is a provision under SeniorCare that requires some individuals to spend down their income, which means they need to pay for prescription drugs out-of-pocket in order to reach eligibility levels, that makes it less beneficial for many seniors."

The governor’s plan calls for seniors to first enroll in a Medicare Part D plan and SeniorCare would supplement coverage for any drugs not covered by the federal plan. His office estimates a $15 million, or 40 percent savings over the next two years in the state’s budget for the prescription drug program for low-income seniors.

Gov. Walker first proposed a similar plan in 2011. At that time, the proposal was dropped when it faced opposition from both Democrats and Republicans.

It’s interesting that when so many want less federal intervention and more statewide control, a state program with so much local support, especially when, during fall campaigns, elected lawmakers voiced their "commitment(ment) to fully fund SeniorCare."

Currently, Democrats Sen. Dave Hansen and Rep. Eric Genrich are launching a petition to drop the proposal.  They suggest the Republican governor is "putting the interests of big pharma above Wisconsin's seniors." AARP also denounces the plan, urging Wisconsin members to contact state legislators to encourage them to remove the provisions from the governor’s proposed budget.

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