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Medicare Starts Mailing $250 Checks to Seniors Caught in "Donut Hole"

June 15, 2010
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) announced today that Medicare has started mailing checks to seniors who have paid too much for their prescription drugs under Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. These are seniors who have paid $2,830 or more before they were eligible for the catastrophic coverage threshold – a gap in coverage known as the ‘donut hole'. Under the recently enacted health reform law, seniors who fall in the donut hole coverage gap in 2010 will receive a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate check.  The checks will continue to be mailed monthly over the next several months as seniors enter the coverage gap.

"Prescription drugs cost many people thousands of dollars a year and this check is a down payment on reducing prescription drug costs for seniors and eventually closing the donut hole altogether," Congresswoman Waters said.  "This is the first example of how the health care reform bill will strengthen Medicare and help seniors. Last year, roughly 382,000 Medicare beneficiaries in our state of California fell into the donut hole and received no extra help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs.  Now, under health reform, help is on the way."

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. 

Congressional Republicans created the donut hole – leaving thousands of seniors to choose between buying the prescriptions they need and putting food on the table – and now they refuse to help close it.    

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. 

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:

• Free preventive care services under Medicare beginning in 2011.
• Strengthens Medicare by extending its solvency by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029.
• Improves seniors' access to doctors.
• Continues to reduce waste, fraud and abuse.
• Improves care by helping doctors communicate and coordinate.
• Expands home and community-based services to keep seniors in their home, instead of in nursing homes.

"Congressional Republicans calling for health reform repeal oppose this progress for seniors and would return us to a system of higher drug costs, shrinking benefits, and insecurity for our seniors," said Congresswoman Waters.  "They would protect insurance company profits at the expense of the care our seniors need and deserve.  My Democratic colleagues and I won't let that happen."

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