Today, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) announced starting June 10, Medicare will begin mailing out to tens of thousands of seniors $250 "donut hole' checks. Under the recently enacted health reform law, seniors who fall in the donut hole coverage gap in 2010 will receive this one-time tax-free $250 rebate check. These checks will continue to be mailed monthly over the next several months as seniors enter the coverage gap.
The checks are just the first benefit from health reform for seniors in the Medicare Prescription Drug program. Beginning in January 2011, seniors in the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. By 2020, the donut hole will be completely closed.
"This is the first example of how the health care reform law will strengthen Medicare and help seniors," said Pallone. "In the past, seniors who have fallen into the Medicare donut hole were forced to choose between food and prescriptions. Health reform is fixing these problems. Important reforms like this will continue to phase in throughout the year and make health care more affordable and accessible for millions of New Jersey's seniors."
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 109,000 Medicare beneficiaries in New Jersey fell in the donut hole and received no extra help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs. Now, under health reform, help is on the way.
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. But seniors should be on the lookout for fraud. Seniors who want to learn more about this new benefit or how to protect themselves from fraud or scams should call 1-800-Medicare, visit www.medicare.gov, or contact the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) 1-800-792-8820 or http://www.state.nj.us/health/senior/ship.shtml.