Congresswoman Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) today announced that 20,527 seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries in Hawaii have received "donut hole' checks to help cover the gap in their prescription drug coverage. Under the new health care law, seniors who fell into the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap in 2010 now receive a one-time tax-free $250 rebate check. The law will completely close the "donut hole' by 2020.
Congresswoman Hirono voted in support of the national health care reform law on March 21, 2010. President Barack Obama signed it into law two days later.
"I recently heard from a senior in Waimea on the island of Hawaii who referred to her $250 Medicare "donut hole' rebate check as a blessing in these tough economic times," said Congresswoman Hirono. "She was able to use that money to pay for her other medical bills."
These $250 checks will continue to be mailed out over the next several weeks. A total of more than 3 million seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries across the country have so far received a "donut hole' check. The $250 checks were the first of the benefits for seniors under the new health care law.
"Donut hole' checks are just the first step under the health care law to reduce prescription drug costs for seniors. As of January 1, seniors who fall into the "donut hole' also receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. This discount increases over time until the "donut hole' coverage gap is completely eliminated by 2020.
Starting this year, the health care reform law provides additional benefits to seniors when they visit their doctor starting this year:
· As of January 1, 2011, traditional 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, traditional Medicare covers an annual wellness visit with a participating doctor, also at no cost.
· In addition to these annual wellness visits, seniors can receive free critical preventive services, including certain cancer screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies.
· Also as of January 1, 2011, the new health care law will provide a 10-percent bonus for primary care services to qualifying doctors and other health care professionals providing primary care to people on Medicare. This will help ensure these primary care providers can continue to treat Medicare patients.
Under the new law, other benefits for seniors include:
· Extending Medicare's solvency by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029, by reducing waste, fraud, and abuse.
· More efficient Medicare, so that experts estimate that the average savings for those enrolled in traditional Medicare will amount to more than $3,500 over the next 10 years.
· Improved care by helping doctors better communicate and coordinate.
· Expanded home and community-based services to keep seniors in their homes, instead of in nursing homes.