Joint Press


Extension Language Included in Bill Expected to Reach President Bush's Desk

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, and U.S. Senator Russ Feingold today announced the successful inclusion of a two-and-a-half year extension of SeniorCare, Wisconsin's popular senior drug coverage program, in the Iraq Supplemental Conference Report, a bill that also includes funding for disaster aid, veterans' health, agricultural disasters, and other emergency funding. The SeniorCare extension was included by the supplemental conference committee, of which Senator Kohl is a member, last night after intense negotiation because of the savings the program offers the federal government. Extending SeniorCare through December 31, 2009 will provide $27 million in savings over five years. This two-and-a-half year extension will allow Wisconsin a reasonable amount of time to determine the best course of action to ensure that seniors do not lose their current prescription drug coverage.

"By successfully including this extension in the supplemental, we are giving the administration another chance to preserve this model program," said Chairman Kohl. "Programs like SeniorCare, which provides better coverage and costs the federal government less, should be preserved, not abolished."

"I'm pleased I was able to help find a way to keep SeniorCare working for Wisconsin's seniors," Feingold said. "If passed, this fix will keep SeniorCare going while the delegation continues to work together to make SeniorCare permanent."

"Our number one priority has always been the interests of the more than 100,000 seniors on SeniorCare and ensuring they continue to get the high quality coverage they enjoy now," Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03) said. "Moreover, the extension will not only benefit Wisconsin's seniors, but also the federal government, which in these tight budget times will save hundreds of millions of dollars. I commend Senator Kohl and Senator Feingold for their tremendous leadership in the effort to preserve this life-saving program, and although the measure must still withstand a veto threat and most likely another round of negotiations, we will continue to press our colleagues in Congress and the Bush Administration on the merits of extending SeniorCare."

"I applaud Sen. Kohl's efforts. The entire Wisconsin delegation remains strongly committed to the SeniorCare program. I hope the Bush Administration will ultimately reverse its decision to end this highly-valued, money-saving program," said Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (WI-02).

President Bush is expected to veto the Iraq supplemental, at which point it will be sent back to Congress. The Wisconsin delegation will continue to work for the inclusion of a SeniorCare extension in any subsequent versions of the supplemental.

The Administration announced its decision earlier this month to deny SeniorCare a three-year waiver that would have allowed it to continue through 2010. Last week, Chairman Kohl and Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle met with Health and Human Services Secretary (HHS) Mike Leavitt to request the six-month extension of SeniorCare, which is currently set to expire June 30, 2007, at which point over 103,000 low-income seniors will lose their current prescription drug coverage. HHS has yet to announce its decision. After receiving a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) showing that SeniorCare generates savings for the federal government, Senator Feingold was instrumental in drafting the initial legislation to extend the SeniorCare program.

# # #