Millions of Seniors in “Donut Hole” Would Have Been Forced to Pay Over $9,300 More for Rx Drugs by 2020 



WASHINGTON, D.C. — Leading an early effort to save Medicare from the budget chopping block, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) made the following statement in response to today’s 57 to 40 vote on House Continuing Resolution 34 that would end Medicare as we know it.

“Today’s vote is a victory for Ohio’s seniors, their children, and America’s legacy of fighting for people who work hard and play by the rules. In the twenty-first century, we cannot afford to take from the poor to give to the rich. This ill-conceived plan would have pulled the rug out from under America’s seniors in order to finance extra tax cuts for millionaires. If enacted, seniors would have watched their prescription drug costs explode and would have lost access to no-cost annual wellness visits and preventive care.

“Republican attempts to hand an $89 million prescription drug tab to split among 159,000 Ohio seniors in the first year alone was simply unconscionable,” Brown added. “Today, we rejected an insidious scheme to saddle seniors with vouchers that wouldn’t cover the cost of the health services they count on – doubling their out-of-pocket costs in the first year alone. It would have also forced at least one million seniors and people with disabilities to pay over $110 million more for their annual wellness visits in 2012. That’s why we fought to protect America’s seniors who have worked their entire lives to live out their autumn years with dignity and access to affordable healthcare.”

In early May, Brown led a group of 50 Senators in signing a letter to President Obama expression opposition to the plan to privatize Medicare. In the letter, Brown wrote, “While deficit reduction is essential, balancing the budget by dismantling Medicare is both unfair to hard-working Americans and counterproductive. Seniors who are unable to afford Medicare or its equivalent will skip preventative services, not take necessary medication, and delay treatment leading to potentially undetected illnesses and more expense care. If Medicare is turned into a voucher system and the health reform law is dismantled, millions of seniors will be left under-or uninsured. This will add to the burden on our nation’s already overwhelmed emergency rooms and result in increased demands on Medicaid as seniors exhaust their life savings.”

Last week, Brown released a new report detailing the number of Ohio seniors that would be thrown back into the prescription drug donut hole, the additional costs seniors would pay for prescription drugs, and the number of Medicare enrollees who would pay more for their annual wellness visit under the Republican budget. The report noted that an estimated 159,403 Ohio seniors would be impacted by the “donut hole” by 2012, meaning these seniors would pay an additional $89 million per year in prescription drug costs. That means Ohio seniors would be forced to pay an additional estimated $1.8 billion for their medications by 2020. The report also noted that 42,649 Ohio seniors would be forced to pay for annual wellness visits under the Republican plan, at a cost of nearly $4.5 million annually.

The Republican budget would also have required seniors to pay deductibles, co-insurance, and copayments for many preventive services currently covered by Medicare, including mammograms; colorectal, cervical and prostate cancer screening; cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings; diabetes screening and flu shots.