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Some Relief For CA Seniors In The “Doughnut Hole”

June 23, 2010

SACRAMENTO - Californians who've fallen into the Medicare "doughnut hole" should soon find some relief in the mail. The federal government has started sending out the first round of $250 rebate checks to help eligible Medicare Part D enrollees pay for their prescription drugs.

Last year, 382,000 Californians reached the drug coverage limit and had to start paying the entire cost of their prescriptions until they reached the catastrophic coverage threshold. At AARP California, Christina Clem says the rebate checks signal the eventual end of the dreaded coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole."

"This is the first step in one of the new benefits of the new health care law. And it is also the first step, when it comes to Medicare Part D and the 'doughnut hole,' to closing the 'doughnut hole' by 2020."

Clem says Part D enrollees will automatically receive the checks when they reach the gap in coverage, so there's no need to apply or take additional action. She also cautions people to be wary of scam artists who are on the prowl.

"People who are trying to help you get it faster or get it through some other site. If you get reports of someone who's trying to help you get that check faster, it's a scam and that should be reported to your police department or to the state Attorney General's office."

Starting next year, those who fall into the prescription drug doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. The discounts continue to grow until the coverage gap is eliminated in 2020.

In the meantime, if you think you've reached the doughnut hole and haven't received a check within a few months, Clem says having your prescription receipts handy will be helpful when talking to Medicare.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA