Today, Representative Dan Maffei announced that, starting today, 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% discount on brand name drugs. By 2020, the donut hole will be completely closed.
Representative Dan Maffei said: "Prescription drugs cost many people thousands of dollars a year and this check is a down payment on reducing prescription drug costs for seniors and eventually closing the donut hole altogether. This is the first example of how the health care reform bill will strengthen Medicare and help 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 9,600 Medicare beneficiaries in the 25th congressional district who fell in the donut hole received no extra help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs. Now, under health reform, help is on the way. The $250 checks are just the first step in reducing seniors' prescription drug costs. Beginning next year, there is a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs in the donut hole, and by 2020, the donut hole is completely closed.
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. Rep. Maffei also warned seniors to 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. The new law will also:
· Provide free preventive care services under Medicare, beginning in 2011;
· Strengthen Medicare by extending its solvency by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029;
· Continue to reduce waste, fraud and abuse;
· Improve care by helping doctors communicate and coordinate; and
· Expand home and community-based services to keep seniors in their home, instead of in nursing homes.
"Those who are calling for health reform repeal oppose this help for seniors, and would return us to a system of higher drug costs, shrinking benefits, and insecurity for our seniors," continued Rep. Maffei. "They would protect insurance company profits at the expense of the care our seniors need and deserve. It's wrong and I stand by this health care reform bill."