For Immediate Release: June 29, 2012
Contact: Rebekah Sweeney: (608) 266-3790
Jorgensen urges state to extend SeniorCare Program
and use its funding wisely
WAUKESHA – Today, State Representative Andy Jorgensen (D-Fort Atkinson) took part in a town hall meeting regarding the continuation of the vital state program; SeniorCare. The public hearing was held in Waukesha and is one of three that the Department of Health Services (DHS) is putting on in accordance with the new waiver process issued by the Federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Representative Jorgensen requested a three year renewal with no changes to the current program for the SeniorCare prescription drug assistance program to continue until December 31, 2015. SeniorCare is a prescription drug assistance program for Wisconsin residents who are 65 years of age or older designed to help seniors with their prescription drug costs. The current waiver is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2012.
“Last year, when Governor Walker introduced his first state budget, he included plans to dismantle SeniorCare as we know it,” said Rep. Jorgensen. “However, Wisconsinites from all around our State fought for this program’s continuance. I, along with fellow representatives, succeeded in getting over 14,000 petitioners’ signatures to not only keep SeniorCare, but extend it. As a result, the Legislature voted to continue funding for SeniorCare in the biannual budget, which was then signed into law by Governor Walker.”
Jorgensen continued, “Through our successful petition drive, officials at the Department of Health Services and our Governor heard from the people in our State who showed their strong support for SeniorCare. I’m glad the Governor now understands what this program means to so many Wisconsinites: life. I was, and still am, pleased to see so many people stand up for their elders whom are in need of this vital program.”
Representative Jorgensen remarked on several things in his public testimony today relaying the experiences he has had with the program and its participants. He also commented on his concerns over SeniorCare’s funding. While the program has been fully funded in the past, the surplus money left over is swept into the general fund as a means to balance the budget. In the last biennium there was an excess $20.5 million that was moved from SeniorCare back to the general fund. Rep. Jorgensen cautioned against this happening again and stated that he tried to pass legislation during the session to keep this money within the SeniorCare program to increase enrollment, rebate drugs further, or just to ensure the program continues to grow and be successful.
“Last session I authored legislation that would have kept this surplus money within SeniorCare to help strengthen it for many years to come. Unfortunately, my bill, AB-167, was stalled in committee by the majority party and never even received a hearing,” stated Jorgensen. “In Madison we have a problem punishing programs like SeniorCare, that show they are in the ‘black’ because everyone just thinks we can take that extra funding to plug budget shortfalls in other areas. I have proposed legislation in the past that would have made it impossible for either party to use any extra money that was originally intended for the SeniorCare program for another purpose.”
Representative Jorgensen went on to say that he intended on authoring similar legislation next session that would restrict anyone from dipping into the surplus funds that were appropriated to the SeniorCare program. He also expressed his opinion that he hopes DHS and the state government will continue to hold public meetings about the program on their own and not just at the behest of the federal government.
“I will continue with my proposal next session and once again introduce legislation that will keep the surplus money within SeniorCare, where it was originally intended to be. Like I have always said, the unspent money should be used responsibly to reinforce this already successful program and protect it against any possibility of funding shortfalls in the future. Ultimately, we have the responsibility to ensure that SeniorCare becomes a permanent program for all the senior citizens in our state,” declared Jorgensen. “The great amount of public support we have seen here today only proves this point further. However, our state government should be holding events like this to show support for successful programs like SeniorCare and not just because the federal government told them that they had to in order to fulfill the new waiver guidelines. I suggest that we hold public hearings concerning SeniorCare once every quarter and I hope that is something that we can agree upon. Our administration needs to start treating SeniorCare like the strong bipartisan program that it is and start considering the lives of the senior citizens in this state.”