Congressman Bart Gordon announced that beginning this month, seniors who fall into the Medicare Part D coverage gap, or donut hole, will receive a $250 rebate to help cover the cost of prescription drugs.
"The Medicare Part D donut hole has left many seniors scraping by to keep up with life-saving prescriptions they depend on. The donut hole forces many seniors on fixed incomes to choose between food and medicine, cut their recommended dosages, or simply do without prescribed medication," Gordon said. "These rebates will provide immediate help, and reforms recently signed into law will provide a permanent fix to this error."
Under current Medicare policy, seniors' prescription drugs are covered until their costs exceed $2,830 for the year. After that point, seniors must pay out of pocket for their medications, some of which are too costly at full price for those on a fixed budget. Coverage does not resume until their costs hit $6,440 and can be covered by catastrophic care.
The rebate checks will offer relief to the 85,000 seniors in Tennessee who will be affected by the donut hole this year. The checks are the first step in the phase-out of the donut hole initiated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law earlier this year. Beginning in January 2011, seniors that fall into the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs. The donut hole will be closed entirely in the next 10 years, saving Tennessee seniors a total of $1.7 billion.
Gordon noted the elimination of the donut hole is just one of several health insurance reform measures that will directly benefit Tennessee seniors. Beginning in January, Medicare recipients will no longer be charged co-payments for preventive services such as screenings. Local care options for seniors in rural counties will improve as primary care doctors and general surgeons are offered incentive bonuses for practicing in rural areas. Medicare Advantage recipients' premiums will decrease over the next 10 years.
"These reforms take commonsense steps to ensure seniors get the benefits they depend on, and the reforms do this in a fiscally responsible way," Gordon said. "I've had seniors stop me on the streets, call on the telephone and write letters telling me how hard it is to buy medicine while trying to pay their other bills. Some have even told me they simply cannot afford to buy medicine and eat, too. That is an unacceptable choice, and it's one reason why health insurance reform is vital."
Gordon encourages Middle Tennessee seniors to learn more about what the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act means for them by visiting www.house.gov/bart for more information.