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Changes to Wisconsin SeniorCare Might Make It Unaffordable

PHOTO:Proposed changes to Wisconsin's SeniorCare program, which helps state residents 65 and older pay for their prescription medications, could force seniors off the program.
PHOTO:Proposed changes to Wisconsin's SeniorCare program, which helps state residents 65 and older pay for their prescription medications, could force seniors off the program.
April 29, 2015

MADISON, Wis. - Changes to the Wisconsin SeniorCare plan are being considered in the proposed state budget, including capping enrollment and increasing the current annual premium.

The plan helps about 85,000 Wisconsin senior citizens afford their medications. Helen Marks Dicks, state issues advocate for AARP-Wisconsin, said the program works so well that it has excess revenue that is used in other parts of the Medicaid program and should be left alone.

"Not only do seniors like it and people who use the program like it, most of our pharmacies are involved and like it," she said. "so I don't see any reason to change it when it's working so well."

Supporters of the change say capping enrollment and increasing the premium would make it more efficient, but Dicks said it doesn't make sense to change a program that works well and pays for itself.

The current annual premium is $30 a year, and one proposal would raise the premium to around $84. Dicks said that can be onerous.

"It doesn't sound like much to somebody who has a job and is comfortably in the middle class," she said, "but for somebody that is low income and who is currently looking at making the decision whether or not to take a full pill or a half a pill because of the amount of money involved, it is a lot of money."

Dicks said no one should have to make what could be life or death choices when it comes to prescription medications.

She said SeniorCare is a great program of which Wisconsin should be proud, adding that any changes to the program should be removed from the state budget so Wisconsin seniors can continue to save on the cost of their prescription drugs.

"It's a simple program to use," she said. "It's efficient, it has a very wide formulary, and it actually makes money for the state because of the fact that SeniorCare does negotiate with the drug companies and there is a significant part of the program that is paid through drug rebates."

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI