Washington, D.C.– Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today highlighted the more than 300,000 one-time $250 rebate checks sent out nationwide earlier this week to people whose drug costs are in the so-called Medicare Part D donut hole, which affects millions of consumers around the country. The checks, sent as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will help defray the costs of expensive prescription drugs.
The “donut hole” is the gap in Medicare coverage for the yearly cost of prescription drugs between $2,830 and $6,440. Medicare beneficiaries pay 25 percent of their drug costs until they reach $2,830 for the year, at which point Medicare no longer offers a benefit until yearly costs reach $6,440, when Medicare pays all but 5 percent of the remaining costs. Because so many seniors’ prescription drug costs fall between the two figures, the Affordable Care Act directed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to help recipients afford needed medication this year. The first round of approximately 80,000 rebate checks was sent in June, and 70 percent of those checks were cashed within a week of recipients receiving them.
According to a state-by-state analysis of Medicare recipients released by HHS in May, roughly 72,800 Medicare beneficiaries in Arizona hit the donut hole last year.
“Prescription medications are not a luxury item,” Grijalva said in highlighting the rebates. “Families cannot economize simply by choosing not to pay for them. These are needed medications that manage chronic pain, illnesses and conditions that make life difficult for millions of people around the country. Helping Americans get the care they need is important, and I want to make sure everyone is aware of opportunities to make prescription costs more affordable.”
In 2011, Medicare recipients will get a 50 percent discount on the cost of brand name drugs in the donut hole. Other steps will be taken each year until the donut hole is eliminated in 2020.