A prescription drug program for Wisconsin seniors gets an extension -- just days before it was set to expire.
For many elderly Wisconsin residents, SeniorCare is cheaper and simpler than Medicare Part D, plus there's no doughnut hole.
The current federal waiver that allows the state to run the program outside of Part D was set to expire at the end of the month.
Now, Wisconsin has been granted another waiver to keep the program running through 2015.
"A lot of seniors are going to be very happy when they hear the announcement," said La Crosse County Aging Unit Elderly Benefits Specialist Tina Johnson.
Johnson had been fielding calls from concerned seniors, worried that SeniorCare would go away.
"There's no monthly premium. SeniorCare just has a $30 yearly premium and you can enroll at any time," said Johnson.
The average Part D premium runs about $30 to $35 a month.
Through SeniorCare, co-payments are $5 for generic drugs and $15 for brand-name ones.
Unlike Part D, SeniorCare has no gaps in coverage.
The program includes something new this year -- Medication Therapy Management.
"This is a really big deal for Wisconsin," said Degen Berglund pharmacist Amy Rasmussen.
The new service creates a partnership among doctor, pharmacist and patient.
Pharmacists will review patients' current medications to see if any are redundant or if they could interact poorly.
Rasmussen said that's especially important for seniors.
“As you age, it becomes much more common for you to have some of these disease states, which are very highly complicated, many medications being added. And so it's a population of people that can really benefit from this service," said Rasmussen.
More than 152,000 Wisconsin seniors have purchased prescription drugs through SeniorCare since the program started a decade ago.
About 75 percent of seniors currently enrolled are women.
To learn how to qualify for SeniorCare, call the SeniorCare hotline at 800-657-2038 or go to dhs.wisconsin.gov/seniorcare.