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Foster's Daily Democrat - Medicare 'Donut Hole' Checks in the Mail

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Location: Dover, NH

More than 2,700 New Hampshire residents have received $250 checks to cover prescription drug costs thanks to the health care reform law passed earlier this year.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced another round of the tax-free checks are being mailed out this week.

To date, 750,000 people across the country have received checks. DHHS expects that number will rise this year.

The checks are part of an ongoing effort to eliminate the "donut hole" exception in the Medicare Part D prescription drug program. Seniors and those with disabilities receive no coverage when their drug costs reach $2,510. They continue to receive no coverage until costs exceed $5,726.

DHHS estimates more than a quarter of Part D participants who hit the donut hole stop following their drug regimen.

"These checks are an important first step in helping them afford the medications they need," said DHHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement.

The checks are part of the Affordable Care Act passed in March in conjunction with the Obama administration's health care reform law.

Next year, the act will provide more reimbursements and services that DHHS says will strengthen Medicare.

In 2011, 50 percent discounts on name-brand medication will be offered to those in the donut hole. Also, Medicare beneficiaries will get free preventive care services like physicals and screenings for breast and colon cancer.

In 2018, Medicare premiums will be lowered by an average of $200 a year per person. And the Medicare Trust Fund will be expanded by 12 years.

"Seniors will see lower prescription drug costs ... and higher quality care," said Don Berwick, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services. "And our efforts to crack down on fraud and waste are making beneficiaries safer and Medicare stronger."

Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-Rochester, led an effort to pass the Affordable Care Act.

"I have met countless seniors across New Hampshire who have told me that they have a difficult time buying groceries because of the cost of prescription drugs," Shea-Porter said at the time. "This is unacceptable. We must work together to close the donut hole and provide our seniors with access to the health care they need."


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