Whitehouse: Doughnut Hole Payments a Relief for RI Seniors
Many Medicare Patients to Start Receiving $250 Payments Today
Washington, D.C. - Starting today, senior citizens affected by the coverage gap or "doughnut hole" in the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan will begin receiving $250 payments as the first step in the eventual phase out of this coverage gap. These payments will help offset the burdensome cost of uncovered prescriptions. U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has been a leader in the fight to eliminate the doughnut hole, today released the following statement:
"Since I ran for the Senate in 2006, I've heard countless horror stories about folks affected by the dreaded Medicare Part D doughnut hole. Far too many seniors are forced to choose between taking their medication and putting food on the table or paying their bills. This is unacceptable, and today marks the first step toward fixing the problem. For Rhode Island seniors who have been hit hard by the long recession, this will be welcome relief."
The doughnut hole exposes seniors to the full cost of prescription drugs after yearly drug expenses exceed $2,830. Drug coverage doesn't resume until they spend $6,440 for the year - a high threshold for seniors on low fixed incomes. This sudden and often unexpected rise in prescription costs can be devastating.
Since becoming a Senator in 2007, Whitehouse has sponsored legislation aimed at closing the doughnut hole. During the past year's debate on health care reform, he urged Senate leaders to include a doughnut hole fix in the reform legislation. The final bill signed by the President will gradually close the doughnut hole by 2020. The $250 payments starting today are the first step in that process. It is estimated that more than 15,000 Rhode Islanders will benefit from these payments.
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