Today, Congressman Bill Owens announced that Medicare will begin mailing out another round of $250 "donut hole' checks to more than 30,000 New York seniors. Under the recently enacted health care 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.
"This coverage gap has burdened Upstate New York seniors for far too long, and these checks will begin to correct this situation," Owens said. "This is just one example of how health reform will help seniors by strengthening Medicare and closing the donut hole completely in ten years."
In the previous two months, payments have been sent to more than 32,000 New York seniors to help with the rising cost of prescription medication. Tuesday, Medicare began sending similar payments to an additional 30,876 seniors in the state.
The checks are 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 close completely.
Seniors are subject to the donut hole if their prescription drugs cost too much to be paid for through basic Medicare coverage, but aren't expensive enough to qualify for catastrophic coverage. 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, almost a quarter million Medicare beneficiaries in New York fell into the donut hole and received no extra help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs. Recent health care reform is beginning to bring much needed relief to our seniors," Owens added.
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.
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:
* Beginning on January 1, 2011, provides that seniors will receive free preventive care services like mammograms and certain colon cancer tests and a free annual physical.
* Strengthens Medicare by extending its solvency by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029.
* Includes Medicare efficiencies, so that experts estimate that seniors can expect to save on average almost $200 per year in premiums, by 2018, compared to what they would have paid without the new law.
* Continues to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare.
* 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.