Congresswoman Shelley Berkley today announced that on June 10, 2010, Medicare will begin mailing out $250 "donut hole" checks to tens of thousands of seniors. Under the recently enacted health reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, seniors who fall in the "donut hole coverage gap in 2010 will receive one-time tax-free $250 checks.
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.
"Prescription drugs cost many Nevadans covered by Medicare thousands of dollars a year and these checks are a down payment on reducing prescription drug costs for seniors and eventually closing the 'donut hole' altogether," said Berkley. "This is the first example of how the health care reform bill will strengthen Medicare and help Nevada's seniors."
The "donut hole" coverage gap is the period in the prescription drug benefit (once their prescription drug costs exceed $2,830) in which beneficiaries pay 100 percent of the cost of their drugs until they hit the catastrophic coverage threshold. Last year, roughly 28,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Nevada fell in the "donut hole" and received no extra help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs.
"We have made a promise to our nation's seniors. Access to high-quality and affordable health care is not something they should hope for -- it is something they have earned," Berkley said. "Our seniors deserve the security of knowing that Medicare will provide for all their needs, including covering lifesaving prescription drugs."
Berkley warned seniors to be on the lookout for fraud. 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.
"Medicare sends checks automatically and there are no forms to fill out," Berkley said. "Do not give any personal information -- Medicare, Social Security or bank account numbers -- to anyone who calls about the rebate check."
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:
* Providing free preventive care services under Medicare, beginning in 2011.
* Strengthening Medicare by extending its solvency by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029.
* Improving seniors' access to doctors.
* Continuing to reduce waste, fraud and abuse.
* Improving care by helping doctors communicate and coordinate.
* Expanding home and community-based services to keep seniors in their homes, instead of in nursing homes.