Walker proposes cuts to popular SeniorCare program

Walker is proposing cuts because the state is facing a projected $2.2 billion dollar deficit

Wisconsin’s prescription drug program for seniors could be seeing some big changes in the future. As part of Gov.Scott Walker’s budget proposal thousands of eligible recipients in the state’s SeniorCare program would be pushed into signing up for the potentially more expensive federal Medicare Part D program first.

Walker is proposing cuts because the state is facing a projected $2.2 billion deficit. One of those cuts would take $15 million away from SeniorCare. Walker’s goal is to shift more of the responsibility to subsidize prescription drugs onto the federal government, saving Wisconsin money, but those against the proposal said it will make medication less affordable.

Noreen Holmes has served La Crosse County seniors for more than a decade.

“I really see the worth of the elder population,” Holmes said.

Many of these elder folks are on SeniorCare.

“Seniors like it, it’s easy to understand.” Holmes said.

Currently Wisconsinites 65 years or older are required to have prescription drug coverage, through Medicare Part D or “credible coverage” that could be provide through work or programs like SeniorCare.

“For each year that you didn’t have coverage you would pay a penalty,” Holmes said.

Holmes said SeniorCare is a popular choice because it’s cost-effective.

“It’s $30 a year and your co-payments will be $5 or $15.” Holmes

However that could soon change. Walker’s proposal would require seniors to first sign up for Medicare Part D in order to get SeniorCare.

“We want people to take the Medicare Part D component so the federal government pays for that part and the part that we grant in the state under SeniorCare that goes beyond that, we’ll pay for it. So it’s not about changing benefits it’s ultimately about changing who pays for it,” Walker said.

On average Medicare Part D costs users $60 a month or $720 a year. Rep. Steve Doyle is against the proposal but said cuts are going to be made somewhere.

“Quite honestly it’s one of those situations where the squeaky wheel gets the grease if people are up in arms, if they are upset, if they actually take the initiative to call their elected officials that’s going to make the difference,” Doyle said.

“People will let their voice be known; whether they’ll be successful I’m not sure,” Holmes said.

Right now this is just a proposal and prescription drug coverage for seniors will not change until Wisconsin’s budget is decided. The Joint Finance Committee will hold public hearings next month discussing all aspects of the budget.