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Wisconsin doctors' group: 'Save SeniorCare!'

Single-payer advocates call on U.S. health secretary to block changes that would hurt seniors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 1, 2011

Contact:
Melissa Stiles, M.D., wisconsin.pnhp@gmail.com
Laurel Mark, M.D., wisconsin.pnhp@gmail.com

This morning the Wisconsin chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program joined many other Wisconsin organizations in opposing changes to SeniorCare and called upon Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary for health and human services, to block any federal waivers that would undermine the program. The group’s statement follows:

Wisconsin has been a national leader in providing affordable prescription medications to our senior citizens at a lower cost and with better coverage than Medicare Part D.

SeniorCare was established in 2002 under Gov. Tommy Thompson and extended in 2007 and 2009 with bipartisan support from our congressional delegation. It is a very popular part of the Medicaid program, a joint federal and state program that requires federal approval for changes.

With an enrollment of 91,000 Wisconsin seniors, a $30 annual enrollment fee, co-payments ranging from $5 to $15, and no gaps in coverage, SeniorCare is a proven program that works. In addition to providing exceptional drug coverage, the program also saves taxpayers tens of millions of dollars by negotiating for discounts from drug companies.

Now this program is at risk. Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would change and effectively dismantle SeniorCare so that it would only fill in gaps in private insurance coverage, at a higher cost to seniors and with continued gaps in coverage. If this change is allowed to take place, many seniors will not be able to afford needed medications, leading to more illness, suffering and death.

SeniorCare is financially solvent. It currently runs a $20 million surplus and saved $50 million in drug costs in 2009 alone. There is no need to dismantle this program except for political ideology.

As physicians and health care professionals caring for Wisconsin seniors every day, we emphatically oppose changes to SeniorCare and call on Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to reject any plan that would weaken or dismantle the program. We applaud Sen. Herb Kohl for his leadership on this issue and thank all our elected officials who have supported SeniorCare in the past and present.

Until such time as our nation adopts a single-payer health plan that provides universal and comprehensive coverage to everyone, the 350 physician-members of PNHP Wisconsin stand together with Wisconsin seniors in supporting SeniorCare in its current form.

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Physicians for a National Health Program (www.pnhp.org) is an organization of 18,000 doctors who advocate for single-payer national health insurance, an improved Medicare for all. To speak with a physician near you, visit www.pnhp.org/stateactions, or call (312)782-6006.