The Joint Finance Committee rejects Governor Scott Walker’s proposed changes to Wisconsin’s popular low-cost prescription drug program for the elderly.
Committee Co-Chair Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) holds up the more than 14,000 signatures in support of SeniorCare for everyone to see. “We want to tell everybody around Wisconsin this legislature is going to continue SeniorCare as it is and not change it. So that’s a big victory.”
Last week Democrats led by Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) submitted the petitions urging Republican leaders to leave Senior-Care alone. Democrats on JFC, including Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse), try unsuccessfully to extend the waiver for SeniorCare even longer. “We don’t want to have this battle every budget, that I think the seniors deserve to have some reliability and predictability.”
About 91,000 low-income senior citizens over 65 get their medicines from the state program. Jorgensen has been fighting to continue SeniorCare with its current eligibility levels and benefits, saying “Anything less is unacceptable.” Both political parties agree with Bob Jauch’s (D-Poplar) statement. “SeniorCare is the holy grail of public policy.”
Walker’s proposed cuts would have saved $15-million in his effort to eliminate the state’s budget deficit. However, the legislature’s budget-writing panel increases funding for the program by $6.8 million in 2011-12 and by $3.3 million in 2012-13 to reflect a reestimate of the costs to fully fund SeniorCare.
Committee members also eliminate the requirement that SeniorCare participants enroll in Medicare Part D before using state benefits.
The budget committee approved a big health package along party lines (12-4), which includes caps to Family Care enrollment to save money. JFC meets again on Thursday.