RACINE COUNTY — Time was running short for the federal government to extend SeniorCare. But with just more than two weeks until its initial sunset deadline, the prescription drug program for seniors has received a reprieve.

On March 25, a bipartisan delegation of Wisconsin members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, asking for a “long-term extension” to the program that was scheduled to expire on March 31. The Wisconsin delegation was granted its request for an extension, but only until April 30.

But on Friday, Gov. Tony Evers announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had notified the Department of Health Services that a 10-year extension for the SeniorCare prescription drug program was approved.

“Folks in Wisconsin have said repeatedly that they are concerned about the cost of prescription drugs,” Evers said. “I know how much Wisconsin seniors rely on this program to choose the prescription drug coverage that is right for them at prices they can afford.”

Evers said he wants to bring more transparency and accountability to prescription drug pricing.

Wisconsin residents age 65 or older can apply to be in SeniorCare with a $30 enrollment fee and copays ranging from $5 to $15, and according to the governor’s office, there are no gaps in coverage.

Widely used program

SeniorCare has been in place in Wisconsin since July 2002 and covers most generic and brand-name prescription drugs and over-the-counter insulin. There are nearly 1,600 seniors in Racine County that use the program, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil, R-Wis.

Steil represents Wisconsin’s 1st District, which includes all of Racine County, and was one of the officials who signed the letter to Azar in March. The congressman said the extension is good news for seniors in the county and state.

“The program now has the stability it needs to continue providing seniors with affordable prescription medications for years to come,” Steil said. “I am proud to be a part of this successful delegation-wide effort. I will continue working to protect Medicare for our seniors.”

Andrea Palm, the secretary-designee of the state Department of Health Services, said about 50,000 Wisconsin seniors rely on SeniorCare.

“A 10-year approval from the federal government is rare and speaks to the high-quality work of our staff who are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Wisconsin residents,” Palm said.

Upon hearing the news, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, tweeted that it was great news for Wisconsin seniors and thanked President Donald Trump “for supporting this one-of-a-kind program.”

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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