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SeniorCare to Continue Serving Wisconsin Seniors through December 31, 2009

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Emergency Supplemental Spending bill that is expected to pass both the House and Senate today includes a two-and-a-half year extension of SeniorCare, allowing Wisconsin's popular senior drug coverage program to continue through December 31, 2009.
U.S. Senator Herb Kohl and U.S. Senator Russ Feingold negotiated for inclusion of the provision in the Senate bill, while Congressman Dave Obey (WI-07) served as the principal House negotiator for the final package that includes it.  President Bush has indicated that he will sign the bill into law, which also includes funding for disaster aid, veterans' health, agricultural disasters, and other emergency funding.
"The drug coverage that seniors in Wisconsin have come to know and depend on is going to stay in place," said Senator Kohl.  "The delegation stuck with it, and we got the job done.  I couldn't be more pleased."
"Wisconsin's seniors deserve the best prescription drug program available, and that program is SeniorCare," Senator Feingold said.  "After hearing from folks in Wisconsin who know and trust this program, and clearly prefer SeniorCare to the flawed Medicare Part D program, it was clear we needed to do something.  Wisconsin's seniors are the clear winners with the extension of the successful SeniorCare program." 
"The Administration tried to kill SeniorCare despite the fact that it is supported by the public, the State Legislature, the Governor and the entire Wisconsin Congressional delegation," said Congressman Obey.  "I'm glad we were able to overcome their resistance and ensure that Wisconsin seniors can continue to benefit from SeniorCare."
"SeniorCare saves lives and saves tax dollars.  It is the best prescription drug program in America and should be a model for other states to follow throughout the nation.  Our parents and grandparents should not be forced to choose between skipping a meal and taking a pill," said Congressman Steve Kagen, M.D. (WI-08)
"Seniors all over Wisconsin tell me what a life-saver the SeniorCare program is to them, and their interests are our top priority. I applaud Senators Kohl and Feingold and Rep. Obey for their efforts to save this landmark program," said Congressman Ron Kind (WI-03). "SeniorCare has been a pillar of state innovation, saving taxpayers millions of dollars and providing seniors with affordable prescription drug coverage."
"This extension is a great relief to thousands of Wisconsinites who have come to rely on SeniorCare and those who can now sign up for its superior benefits. Our entire delegation was united in its support for this program, but we owe a particular debt of gratitude to Senator Kohl and Congressman Obey for their relentless advocacy to keep SeniorCare alive against intense opposition from the Administration," said Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (WI-02). 
"Hallelujah, sweet success at last," Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04) said. "Despite the Administration's objections, Congress has repeatedly voted to extend this critical program and despite evidence to the contrary, I hold out hope that this will be the time he signs it into law. Plain and simple, SeniorCare works for Wisconsin's elderly, works for taxpayers, and offers an excellent example of how state and federal governments can join together to help those who need it the most."
The SeniorCare extension was included in the bill by the Supplemental Conference Committee, of which Senator Kohl and Congressman Obey are members, because of the savings the program provides the federal government.  Extending SeniorCare through the end of 2009 will amount to $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 over 103,000 low-income seniors do not lose their current prescription drug coverage. 
The Administration announced its decision in early April to deny SeniorCare a three-year waiver that would have allowed it to continue through 2010. On April 18, Senator 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. Though HHS has indicated that it is likely to do so, it has yet to officially grant SeniorCare the six-month extension that would enable Wisconsin to create a "wrap-around" program to ensure that no enrollee goes without drug coverage. 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.
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