Witnesses Include Governor Jim Doyle & Head of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, today held a hearing to urge the preservation of SeniorCare, a monumentally successful program in Wisconsin that provides roughly 103,000 low-income seniors with affordable drug coverage. The purpose of the hearingentitled "Preserving SeniorCare: Affordable Drug Coverage That Works For Wisconsin"was to make the case for allowing SeniorCare to continue operating in Wisconsin, instead of replacing it with Medicare Part D, the federal government's prescription drug program. Currently, SeniorCare is set to end on June 30, 2007 if the Bush Administration does not grant a waiver allowing the program to continue.

"Without the waiver, this popular and incredibly successful program will end, forcing Wisconsin seniors to join Medicare Part D with higher costs to both seniors and taxpayers," said Kohl. "It is a no-brainer: SeniorCare costs less, covers more, and seniors are better served. This program is the model for a simple, affordable drug plan, and the Administration should embrace it."

Leslie Norwalk, Acting Administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), testified on behalf of CMS, the federal agency that ultimately has the authority to grant a federal waiver allowing SeniorCare to operate through June 30, 2010. It is expected that CMS will announce its decision in coming weeks. If a waiver is not granted, seniors in Wisconsin will have to enroll in Medicare Part D. An AARP study found that 94 percent of SeniorCare recipients are better served under SeniorCare than they would be under Medicare Part D.

Governor Jim Doyle, an outspoken champion of SeniorCare, provided in his testimony a strong defense for the preservation of the program. Governor Doyle has joined Chairman Kohl and the rest of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation in pushing the Bush administration to renew the SeniorCare waiver and allow the program to continue past June 30, 2007.

Also appearing as witnesses in favor of allowing the SeniorCare program to continue were Tom Frazier, Executive Director of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups; Patricia Finder-Stone, State President of AARP Wisconsin; and Bette Linton, a SeniorCare beneficiary.

Earlier this month, Chairman Kohl sent a letter to President Bush urging his administration to act now to preserve SeniorCare. In the letter, Kohl reminded the President that SeniorCare has consistently achieved budget neutrality, and has saved $669 million in Medicaid funding as a result of reduced Medicaid payments for hospital and nursing home care because seniors with SeniorCare prescription drug coverage have stayed healthier longer.

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