Medicare users in doughnut hole get help

HOUSTON Thousands of Medicare recipients who find themselves in the drug insurance doughnut hole will soon be getting $250 checks from the government. But there are a couple of points to remember here: Not everyone is getting this money, and you do not have to do anything special to get it.

Cyrus Fleming's mother and next-door neighbor are on fixed incomes and facing high costs for prescription drugs.

"Medications are very expensive right now," Fleming said.

But soon, the retired seniors could be getting help in paying for their prescription medications in the form of a check for $250 from the federal government.

"These are $250 checks that are coming out to seniors who have fallen into what we called the doughnut hole," said Deborah Moore with the Harris County Area Agency on Aging.

The doughnut hole refers to the insurance coverage gap seniors on Medicare face when paying for prescriptions drugs.

Right now, when seniors buy medication, they pay a deductible and 25 percent of their drug costs until the total reaches about $2,800 a year. After that, seniors pay the entire cost of their medications until they spend about $6,400 in a year's time.

That's when catastrophic coverage kicks in. The checks to help pay for medication will be sent to about 4 million U.S. seniors as they enter that coverage gap.

"In Harris County alone, there are over 300,000 seniors that are potentially eligible to receive the $250," Moore said.

Seniors do not need to do anything to get the $250 checks. They do not need to fill out any forms or give any information to anyone. Once a Medicare recipient enters the coverage gap, the check will be sent automatically.

And it can't come soon enough for those facing the gap.

"I think it is wonderful because the funds are needed, because most seniors are on fix incomes, so I think it is a wonderful idea," Fleming said.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is warning seniors not to fall victim to scammers looking to rip people off.

Remember, if you get Medicare and fall into the coverage gap, you don't have to do anything to get the check; it will come to you.

Next year, those who fall into the gap will get a 50 percent discount on drugs as a way to help cut cuts for those on fixed incomes.

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