Rep. Ed Markey (D-Malden), a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee announced that to date 6,200 seniors in the 7th Congressional District of Massachusetts have received prescription drug cost relief through the new healthcare law. Under the new law, Medicare beneficiaries who fell into the drug coverage gap known as the "donut hole' during 2010 have been mailed a $250 rebate check to help them afford their lifesaving medications. In Massachusetts, 60,187 seniors on Medicare received over $9 million to help pay for their prescription drugs. The updated figures were included in data released last week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
"Seniors are already seeing the benefits of the new healthcare law: checks to help lower prescription drug costs, closure of the donut hole, and free preventive care," said Rep. Markey. "But the GOP, which continues its effort to repeal the law, is trying to stamp "Return to Sender' on these $250 checks that our seniors have already received."
One of the immediate benefits of the health reform legislation signed into law last year is assistance to seniors with high drug costs. In 2010, all seniors who had prescription drug expenses of $2,830 or more -- and thereby entered the Medicare Part D "donut hole' coverage gap -- received a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate check.
Additionally, seniors who hit the "donut hole' in 2011 will receive a 50% discount on brand-name drugs purchased in the coverage gap, saving the average senior entering the "donut hole' more than $500 annually. These discounts will save seniors in the 7th District more than $4.5 million next year.
Closing the Medicare drug coverage gap is just one of the ways seniors benefit from the Affordable Care Act. In addition to savings on prescription drugs, the law provides new benefits to Medicare beneficiaries when they visit their doctor starting this year:
* As of January 1, 2011, Original Medicare no longer charges out-of-pocket costs for the "Welcome to Medicare" physical exam and, for the first time since the Medicare program was created in 1965, Original Medicare now covers an annual wellness visit with a participating doctor, also at no cost.
* In addition to these annual wellness visits, most people with Medicare can now receive critical preventive services, including certain cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies, for free.
* Also this year, the Affordable Care Act will provide qualifying doctors and other health care professionals providing primary care to people on Medicare a 10-percent bonus for primary care services. This will help ensure that those primary care providers can continue to be there for Medicare patients.
Rep. Markey concluded, "These are real benefits and savings for our seniors, and further evidence of why the attempt by Republicans to repeal or defund the new health care law is the wrong prescription for our district and the Commonwealth, and why I will continue to actively oppose the Republicans' misguided efforts."