MADISON, Wis. - The leader of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services assured Republican lawmakers in a letter this week that the agency is committed to expanding the popular SeniorCare program to cover vaccines as required under a state law passed in April as part of a coronavirus relief package.
Andrea Palm, secretary of the department and the state's top health official, was responding to concerns raised earlier this month by the then-co chairs of the Legislature's budget committee. They questioned why vaccine coverage had not been added to SeniorCare more than six months after the law changed requiring it.
Palm, in a response dated Thursday and provided to The Associated Press on Friday, said that federal approval of changes needed to enact the law had been requested and was pending. She emphasized that nearly all SeniorCare participants are also enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B which cover the flu vaccine and the eventual COVID-19 vaccine.
“Therefore, SeniorCare enrollees will be able to receive preventative vaccine coverage through Medicare Part B, including the COVID-19 vaccine, once it becomes approved and available,” Palm wrote.
However, the shingles vaccine is covered under the optional Medicare Part D. That would be covered under SeniorCare once the program is expanded as the law required.
State Rep. John Nygren and state Sen. Alberta Darling raised concerns with Palm in the Nov. 6 letter.
Expanding the services “improves the quality of care offered to Wisconsin’s seniors and will help protect a vulnerable population from COVID-19 when a vaccine is developed and approved,” Darling and Nygren wrote.
Nygren did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment on Palm's response that federal approval of the expanded program was pending. Darling has since been replaced as co-chair of the committee.
SeniorCare is a state prescription drug assistance program for people over age 65 who make up to $30,625 a year. There are about 95,000 people in the program. The expanded vaccine coverage is expected to cost about $80,000 a year.