Medicare ‘Doughnut Hole’ Rebate Checks Are In Mail, Obama Administration AnnouncesThe Los Angeles Times: "Senior citizens who hit the so-called doughnut hole in Medicare's drug benefit will begin getting $250 rebate checks in two weeks, the Obama administration announced Thursday - providing one of the first tangible benefits of the recently enacted healthcare law. The rebates, designed in part to bolster support for the controversial law, are the first steps in a decade-long phase-out of the unpopular gap in Medicare Part D drug coverage. Seniors now enrolled in a Medicare Part D plan pay 25% of the cost of their prescription drugs until the total bill reaches $2,830. At that point, enrollees must pay the full cost of their prescriptions until their total out-of-pocket spending reaches $4,550. Catastrophic coverage then kicks in and enrollees pay 5% of drug costs for the rest of the year. Department of Health and Human Services officials said Thursday that the first 80,000 seniors who hit that coverage gap, or 'doughnut hole,' will be sent checks on June 10, five days before the deadline" (Levey, 5/27).
NPR's SHOTS blog: "Checks will then go out every 30 days or so after that. By year's end, an estimated four million beneficiaries will get them. The rebates are a one-time benefit. Starting next year, beneficiaries will get a 50 percent discount on brand-name medications once they reach the coverage gap. Within a decade the gap will be closed altogether. At a news conference on implementation efforts on the new health law, however, [HHS Secretary Kathleen] Sebelius warned that seniors not only need to do nothing in order to receive the rebate checks - they SHOULD do nothing" (Rovner, 5/27).
The Associated Press: "Sebelius warned that scam artists are already taking advantage of rebate program to circulate bogus 'application forms' that solicit personal information such as Medicare numbers. 'If anybody shows up asking for information ... report it immediately,' Sebelius said. 'Nothing is required in order to get the check.' ... The Medicare coverage gap came about because of funding constraints, when in 2003 a Republican-led Congress created the prescription benefit under President George W. Bush's administration" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 5/27).
The Hill: "The announcement marks the latest example of ongoing efforts to persuade the public, and particularly seniors, of the new healthcare law's benefits. Seniors disproportionately dislike the new law, and they're also the group that's most likely to vote in this year's midterm elections. Two months after health reform was signed into law, Sebelius said, 'it's clear we're headed in the right direction'" (Pecquet, 5/27).
CQ HealthBeat: "Sebelius' comments came as administration officials continue to stress the portions of the law that are going into effect right away, or even earlier than planned" (Norman, 5/27). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.