Wisconsin Drug Benefit Gets Funds in War Spending Bill
The $124.2 billion supplemental appropriations bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan approved on Monday by a House and Senate conference committee includes a provision that would allow Wisconsin to continue to operate SeniorCare, a prescription drug program for low-income seniors, for 30 additional months, CongressDaily reports (Cohn, CongressDaily, 4/25).
CMS earlier this month rejected a request from Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) for a new Medicaid waiver to allow the state to continue to operate SeniorCare, which began in 2002, for three additional years. According to CMS, the state has not provided evidence that SeniorCare reduces costs for the federal government as required.
The rejection of the request will require the state to shift SeniorCare beneficiaries to the Medicare prescription drug benefit.
Doyle and Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) last week met with HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to seek an extension that would allow the state to continue to operate SeniorCare until Dec. 31.
SeniorCare has no monthly premiums, lower copayments than the Medicare drug benefit and no gaps in coverage. In addition, SeniorCare, unlike the Medicare drug benefit, does not measure the assets of beneficiaries.
SeniorCare has enrolled more than 100,000 Wisconsin residents ages 65 and older with annual incomes less than 240% of the federal poverty level (California Healthline, 4/19).
Kohl proposed the provision, which the conference committee added to the bill.
The provision does not mention SeniorCare specifically but states that "any state that is operating a Pharmacy Plus Waiver," which Wisconsin obtained to establish the program, can continue until Dec. 31, 2009. The provision would apply to no other states.
According to CongressDaily, the provision "materialized in part because negotiators were looking for offsets" to delay proposals from President Bush that would reduce federal funds for Medicaid by $4 billion over five years. A one-year delay of the proposals would cost about $160 million, and the provision would result in an estimated $27 million in savings.
House and Senate negotiators also added to the bill a provision that would require states in which Medicaid providers use written prescription pads to use tamper-resistant pads -- a measure that would reduce the number of fraudulent prescriptions -- to obtain an additional $133 million in savings (CongressDaily, 4/25).
The House plans to vote on the bill on Monday (Ferrechio/Higa, CQ Today, 4/24).