WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced that the first round of checks have been mailed to help Ohio's seniors with the cost of their prescription drugs in the Medicare Part D coverage gap, known as the "donut hole." Today, the tax-free, $250 rebate checks were mailed to seniors who have already hit the Medicare "donut hole" and do not receive Medicare Extra Help. Checks will be mailed each month to seniors as they encounter the gap in their prescription drug coverage.
"Medicare provides vital health coverage to more than 45 million Americans nationwide, but too many of Ohio's seniors are struggling to afford expensive prescription drugs once they've reached the donut hole," Brown said. "Bringing down health care costs for our nation's seniors remains one of my highest priorities and these checks will begin to ease this financial burden for Ohio's seniors and ensure they can access the prescription drugs they need."
Medicare Part D provides prescription drug benefits to Americans on Medicare. This benefit comes with a $310 deductible. After you've spent $310, you pay 25 percent of the cost of your prescriptions until the total cost of all the medicine you have received in a year hits $2,830. Then, you are stuck with 100 percent of the bill until the total cost of your medicines hits $6,440. The gap when Medicare does not cover the cost of your prescription drugs is known as the "donut hole."
Next year, instead of rebate checks, Ohio Medicare beneficiaries who do not receive Medicare Extra Help will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and biologics they purchase when they are in the donut hole. These discounts will increase and continue until 2020, when the donut hole will be eliminated altogether.
Last year, more than 156,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Ohio hit the donut hole and did not qualify for Medicare Extra Help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs. Senator Brown joined Senate Democrats in supporting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which the President signed into law earlier this year. This law is responsible for the $250 rebate checks and for closing the donut hole in the coming years.
The $250 checks will be mailed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the HHS logo will be clearly displayed on the envelope. It will also include Medicare's 1-800 toll-free number in case Medicare beneficiaries have any questions. No personal information such as Medicare, Social Security, or bank account numbers is required to receive the rebate check. Medicare beneficiaries should not give their personal information to anyone who calls about the $250 rebate check.
In addition, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides free annual wellness visits for Ohio seniors and eliminates deductibles, copayments, and other cost-sharing for preventive care. The law includes incentives for care coordination to improve health care quality and to better spend the more than 90 percent of Medicare dollars spent on treating chronic conditions.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also works to protect Ohio seniors from fraud and identity theft scams, and Health and Human Services Secretary Sebelius and Attorney General Holder have invited Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to join them in educating seniors and other Medicare beneficiaries on preventing scams and fraud. The Departments will convene a series of regional fraud prevention summits and invite top federal and Ohio officials to help ensure fraud is being reduced across the country.