The Associated Press April 13, 2011, 5:13PM ET

Wis. Dems to circulate petition to save SeniorCare

Wisconsin Assembly Democrats said they'll circulate a statewide petition to prevent changes to a popular senior drug prescription plan that would require residents to enroll in a federal program first.

Assembly Democrats will begin circulating petitions in their districts urging Gov. Scott Walker to preserve SeniorCare, a state-run prescription drug coverage offered through Medicaid, Rep. Andy Jorgensen of Fort Atkinson said during a Wednesday news conference.

Walker's 2011-13 budget would require residents to enroll in a Medicare Part D insurance plan if applying for SeniorCare. Under this plan, SeniorCare only would cover gaps in the Medicare Part D coverage. Walker said the plan would save the state an estimated $15 million.

SeniorCare, which serves 91,000 residents older than 65, now requires residents to pay an annual $30 fee and deductibles based on their average income. After the deductible, the program has a co-pay of $5 for generic drugs and $15 for brand-name drugs.

Medicare Part D costs vary depending on insurance providers, but the average premium cost for Wisconsin plans is $44 a month.

Walker's change would also require approval from the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary.

Jorgensen said the program is under attack by Walker and that the petition is needed to open his eyes.

"His proposal is no shared sacrifice," Jorgensen said. "It's a direct attack on lower and middle class families and I know they won't stand for it."

Cullen Werwie, a spokesman for Walker, said the governor's plan makes SeniorCare "fiscally sustainable" without cutting existing benefits.

The Democrats' petition came as the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups released an alternative proposal for SeniorCare savings. Instead of having the senior pay the entire deductible and co-pays, the state and senior would both pay co-insurance from the first prescription. Since drug companies give rebates on each prescription paid for --in part or in full -- by program, the switch to co-insurance could increase the amount of those rebates. The rebates covered 69 percent of SeniorCare's $115 million in 2009-10 costs.

Nino Amato, coalition president, said this proposal would enhance SeniorCare, but that his group is still focused on removing Walker's changes from the budget first.

"We want to keep SeniorCare the way it is, get it preserved and then if there's time to enhance it, let's do it later," Amato said.

GOP Senators Alberta Darling of River Hills and Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac, both members of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee, have also said they will oppose Walker's changes to SeniorCare. Democrats say the claim means little until they act.


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