“Donut Hole” Checks are in the Mail for Seniors

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government issues healthcare checks for seniorsThe fourth round of checks since health reform took effect are “in the mail.” In the last few days checks were sent out to 102,834 Californians, including more than one thousand in the 37th Congressional District. Nationwide, more than one million seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries have now received “donut hole” checks to help close their prescription drug coverage gap.

“As we continue to search for solutions that can move our economy forward, this is a step that has been long overdue and is required for the ability of our senior women and men to have access to the basic necessities of life.,” Congresswoman Laura Richardson said. “Closing the donut hole was a major step and now we must work even harder and find ways to do more.”

Under the Affordable Care Act, which was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in March, seniors whose prescription drug costs are so high that they fall in the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” coverage gap are receiving this one-time tax-free $250 rebate check — which is just the first step in closing this gap, which will be completely eliminated by 2020.   These checks are being mailed out every few weeks, as an estimated one in 10 seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries hit the ‘donut hole’ coverage gap created by President Bush’s prescription drug reforms. Experts estimate that a total of 4 million seniors will receive a ‘donut hole’ check over the next several months.

“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 Richardson  added. “This is for many the first example of how the health care reform bill will strengthen Medicare and help seniors—including by extending Medicare’s solvency by more than a decade.”

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 Affordable Care Act. Under the new law, other benefits for seniors include:

  • Beginning on January 1, 2011, provides that seniors will receive free preventive care services like mammograms and certain colon cancer tests and a free annual physical.
  • Strengthens Medicare by extending its solvency by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029.
  • Includes Medicare efficiencies, so that experts estimate that seniors can expect to save on average almost $200 per year in premiums, by 2018, compared to what they would have paid without the new law.
  • Continues to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare.
  • 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.

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