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Feds Tell Kagen Seniorcare Waiver Unlikely “We Must Appeal to the President’s Conscience”- Kagen

(GREEN BAY) Federal officials speaking to Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D. in Washington indicated the federal government is not likely to renew the waiver to Wisconsin for its SeniorCare prescription drug program, Kagen told a meeting in Green Bay Saturday.

More than fifty people came to the meeting at the Aging Resource Center to hear the latest developments in the fight to save Wisconsin’s successful prescription drug program. Congressman Kagen, State Senator Dave Hansen and State Representatives Tom Nelson and Jim Soletski spoke and took questions from the audience. Leaders of Wisconsin AARP, the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG) and the Wisconsin Nurses Association attended.

Nearly 110,000 Wisconsin seniors currently receive affordable prescription drug coverage through the SeniorCare program.  But the waiver is set to expire on June 30th of this year unless the administration grants an extension.  If it doesn’t, Wisconsin seniors could be forced to sign up for the complicated, more expensive Medicare Part D prescription drug program, or go without coverage altogether.

Kagen told the meeting a staff member from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) met with him in Washington and indicated they are unlikely to allow SeniorCare to continue.

Kagen asked the audience to sign petitions and “make a sincere and reasonable appeal to the President’s conscience” to allow Wisconsin seniors to continue to benefit from SeniorCare.

Kagen cited statistics showing SeniorCare provides better coverage and costs taxpayers half of what Medicare Part D costs. “The bottom line is SeniorCare saves lives and it saves money.  It makes no sense to kill SeniorCare and force seniors into the complicated and costly Medicare Part D program,” Kagen said.

“SeniorCare is a less expensive, more comprehensive plan, and it is much better for everyone. If the federal government followed Wisconsin’s lead, we’d all be better off,” said Rod Bohn, a senior citizen from Sturgeon Bay who attended the meeting. “If the federal government is really interested in improving Medicare, why eliminate a program that works?”

“SeniorCare should be the model for an affordable prescription drug program, for our nation. It would be good for our health, good for business and good for our economy,” Kagen said.

SeniorCare works because the state is able to use its bargaining power to negotiate discounts with drug companies, which provide substantial drug rebates equal to about 37 percent of the program’s total cost. In 2006, the state collected almost $50 million in manufacturer drug rebates. The State also negotiates price discounts with providers, which totaled $53 million in 2006. These discounts and rebates directly lower out-of-pocket costs for low-income seniors and significantly reduce state and federal costs. Medicare Part D, on the other hand, cannot leverage such drug rebates because Congress specifically prohibited the federal government from negotiating discounts with drug manufacturers. The House voted to lift the ban in January.

Governor Doyle requested an extension of the federal waiver for SeniorCare last October. The state’s Congressional delegation supports the extension. SeniorCare operates under a waiver that expires June 30th.

“The entire Wisconsin Congressional delegation is doing all it can to convince President Bush and Secretary Leavitt to be kind to seniors,” Kagen said.

Curtis Ellis
202 225-5665 (office)


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