SeniorCare Program Renewed

SeniorCare, a program that helps Wisconsin seniors pay for prescription drugs, will survive another three years. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved a renewal of the program through 2015 on Thursday, Dec. 27.

SeniorCare is a state program that can take the place of Medicare’s drug coverage plan, Part D, and is generally cheaper and easier to navigate than the federal plan.

“It’s not only easy to understand, but it’s cheap, and if anyone’s having trouble surviving these days it’s people living on Social Security,” said Roger Tepe, head of Door County Social Services.

Wisconsin residents over 65 are eligible for SeniorCare, whatever their income levels. Payments to the program are income-based, and those within the lowest income level pay just $30 a year to enroll, then $5 copays on generic medications and $15 on brand names.

“Nobody’s denied in this program,” said Lynn Christenson, Benefit Counselor at the Door County Senior Resource Center. “When it started a lot of very wealthy people who took very few drugs didn’t want to get into Medicare Part D because [they’d be] looking at monthly premiums for nothing.”

It makes more sense for those seniors to sign up for SeniorCare, Christenson said. In the Medicare Part D program, seniors that sign up for drug coverage pay a monthly fee. And if those seniors decide to purchase coverage after opting out of it in the past, they have to pay penalty fees.

SeniorCare also eliminates the “donut hole” issue plaguing Medicare Part D, where seniors sometimes have to pay out-of-pocket for drugs.

Christenson estimated 700 people in Door County were enrolled in the SeniorCare program, only about 11 percent of the population over 65. Many opt for other programs better suited to their needs, or think SeniorCare is exclusively for low-income seniors, she said in an email.

“I am truly, truly glad that it was extended for people,” Christenson said.