Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that more than 1 million Medicare beneficiaries have already received their one-time, tax-free checks of $250 to help pay for prescription drug costs. These checks will continue to be mailed out as seniors hit the ‘donut hole’ prescription drug coverage gap, with an estimated 4 million seniors and people with disabilities receiving this assistance over the next several months. From HHS:
Nationwide, 1 million Medicare beneficiaries have already been mailed their rebates and more beneficiaries will be receiving checks in the coming months as they enter the coverage gap. Eligible beneficiaries receive these checks automatically in the mail when they reach the donut hole, and they don’t have to sign-up to be eligible for the rebates.
Rebate checks will help people with their drug costs this year. Next year, those who fall into the donut hole will receive a 50-percent discount on covered brand name medications while in the donut hole. Every year, the amount Medicare beneficiaries pay in cost sharing will decrease markedly until the coverage gap is closed.
The closing of the donut hole 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. All beneficiaries will receive free preventive care services like mammograms and certain colon cancer tests and a free annual physical starting in 2011 in Original Medicare. Additionally, seniors can expect to save an average of nearly $200 per year in premiums by 2018 compared to what they would have paid without the new law, and most beneficiaries will also see a significant reduction in their Medicare coinsurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Speaker Pelosi on the news:
More than 1 million Medicare beneficiaries have now received a rebate check to help begin closing the prescription drug ‘donut hole’ coverage gap and make their prescription drugs more affordable. Starting in January, those who fall into the donut hole will begin receiving a 50-percent discount on brand name drugs while in the donut hole. They are receiving these benefits because of the health care law Congress passed to strengthen Medicare, lower costs for our seniors, and give seniors more control over their medical care.
Congressional Republicans have voted to repeal this law, and undercut Medicare by making it a voucher system. While Democrats are closing the donut hole and making Medicare fiscally sound for decades to come, Republicans are promising they will go back to the days of higher drug costs, shrinking benefits, and insecurity for our seniors. We will not go back to the failed Bush agenda that placed insurance industry profits ahead of care for our seniors.