U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced that more than 1 million Medicare beneficiaries have received prescription drug cost relief through the Affordable Care Act. As part of the health insurance reform law's step-by-step efforts to close the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage gap, eligible beneficiaries who fall in this "donut hole" this year are mailed a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate check. More than a quarter of the 4 million checks Medicare expects to distribute have been received by eligible Medicare beneficiaries.
"Many seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare face extraordinary prescription drug costs, and too often stop following the drug regimens that their doctors have recommended as a result," said Secretary Sebelius. "These checks will make a difference in helping seniors continue to get the medications they need, and are one of many ways that the Affordable Care Act is helping seniors."
Nationwide, 1 million Medicare beneficiaries have already been mailed their rebates and more beneficiaries will be receiving checks in the coming months as they enter the coverage gap. Eligible beneficiaries receive these checks automatically in the mail when they reach the donut hole, and they don't have to sign-up to be eligible for the rebates.
Rebate checks will help people with their drug costs this year. Next year, those who fall into the donut hole will receive a 50-percent discount on covered brand name medications while in the donut hole. Every year, the amount Medicare beneficiaries pay in cost sharing will decrease markedly until the coverage gap is closed.
The closing of the donut hole is just one of the ways seniors benefit from the Affordable Care Act. In addition to savings on prescription drugs, the law provides new benefits to Medicare beneficiaries when they visit their doctor. All beneficiaries will receive free preventive care services like mammograms and certain colon cancer tests and a free annual physical starting in 2011 in Original Medicare. Additionally, seniors can expect to save an average of nearly $200 per year in premiums by 2018 compared to what they would have paid without the new law, and most beneficiaries will also see a significant reduction in their Medicare coinsurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act also contains important new tools to help crack down on criminals seeking to scam seniors and steal taxpayer dollars. Last week, HHS and the Department of Justice held their second regional fraud prevention summit in Los Angeles that brought together law enforcement experts, providers and seniors to help utilize these new tools to fight fraud and protect seniors.
The Affordable Care Act strengthens the screenings for health care providers who want to participate in Medicaid or Medicare, enables enforcement officials to see health care claims data from around the country into a single, searchable database, and strengthens the penalties for criminals. The reduction in waste, fraud and abuse returns savings to the Medicare Trust Fund to strengthen the program into the future.
Seniors are encouraged to contact 1-800-MEDICARE to report any solicitations of personal information, or go to www.stopmedicarefraud.gov.
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