"Donut Hole" Checks Are in the Mail; Under Health Reform Law, About 4 Million Seniors To Receive $250 Checks Over Next Several Months
WASHINGTON, DC – Help is on its way for seniors with high prescription drug costs.
Today marks the beginning of the end for an egregious policy that has left seniors to choose between buying the prescriptions they need and putting food on their tables. Starting today, Medicare will begin mailing tens of thousands of seniors a $250 'donut hole' check. It is the first step in the Democrats' commitment to wipe out completely the prescription drug 'donut hole', the term that refers to the gap created in Medicare policy in 2005 by the Republican Congress and George Bush that leaves seniors with high prescription drug bills uncovered.
Thanks to the recently enacted health reform law, seniors who fall in the 'donut hole' coverage gap in 2010 will receive this one-time tax-free rebate check.
Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) and Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Creek), both supporters of the health care reforms, applauded the checks saying, "Prescription drugs can cost thousands of dollars a year. This check is a down payment on reducing prescription drug costs for seniors and eventually closing the donut hole altogether."
Miller added, "Congressional Republicans caused this problem and Democrats fixed it by enacting historic health care reform that every Republican in the House opposed. Now, those same Republicans want to stop the help we are offering to seniors by repealing the health care reform law. They would protect insurance company profits at the expense of the care our seniors need and deserve. I’m not going to let that happen."
Garamendi added, "Checks are in the mail to provide relief to millions of seniors trapped in the Medicare Part D prescription drug donut hole. With $250 this year, a 50 percent discount on name brand prescription drugs next year, and the complete closure of the donut hole by 2020, seniors are getting the financial relief they deserve from health care reform. To those who want to repeal health care reform, I have only one question, 'Which senior’s check do you want to take away first?'"
The checks being mailed today – earlier than first expected – are just the first benefit from health reform for seniors in the Medicare Prescription Drug program. These checks will continue to be mailed monthly over the next several months as seniors enter the coverage gap. Beginning in January 2011, seniors in the donut hole will receive a 50% discount on brand name drugs. By 2020, the donut hole will be completely closed.
Congressional Republicans created the donut hole – leaving thousands of seniors to choose between buying the prescriptions they need and putting food on the table – and now they refuse to help close it. The ‘donut hole’ coverage gap is the period in the prescription drug benefit (once their prescription drug costs exceed $2,830) in which the beneficiary pays 100 percent of the cost of their drugs until they hit the catastrophic coverage threshold.
Last year, roughly 382,000 Medicare beneficiaries in California fell in the donut hole and received no extra help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs.
Medicare recipients don’t have to do anything to get the $250 check – once their drug costs for the year hit $2,830 the one-time check will be issued automatically. However, seniors should be on the lookout for fraud.
Making prescription drugs more affordable for seniors is only one of the many benefits for seniors included in the recently enacted health reform law. Other benefits for seniors include:
Provides free preventive care services under Medicare, beginning in 2011.
Strengthens Medicare by extending its solvency by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029.
Improves seniors' access to doctors.
Continues to reduce waste, fraud and abuse.
Improves care by helping doctors communicate and coordinate.
Expands home and community-based services to keep seniors in their home, instead of in nursing homes.