Senate Democrats on Thursday continued their campaign to improve the image of the new health care reform law among seniors and woo this key voting bloc in advance of the midterm elections.
During a news conference in the Capitol, Democratic Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Jeff Bingaman (N.M.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) announced that rebate checks worth $250 each have been mailed to millions of Medicare recipients who have previously been ineligible for prescription drug coverage. The new law eliminated this gap in coverage, also known as the “doughnut hole,” although critics contend the policy raised insurance rates for all Medicare recipients who use the prescription drug coverage.
“Today, the effort to close the doughnut hole starts to become a reality,” said Baucus, who was flanked by a handful of seniors activists. “Seniors will find a $250 check in their mailbox to help them pay their prescriptions.”
Full Medicare insurance coverage for prescription drugs is phasing in over time beginning this week and is expected to be fully implemented in 2020.
“It’s unfortunate that we could not [immediately] eliminate the doughnut hole as a part of the health care reform bill. But everything costs money,” Bingaman said.
Whitehouse said the elimination of the prescription drug insurance funding gap in Medicare would help approximately 15,000 seniors in Rhode Island. Whitehouse described this week’s mailing of rebate checks as a “very good start.”
Public polling of the new health care reform law since it was enacted in late March has consistently shown voter disapproval to be just over 50 percent, with approval being just above 40 percent. Seniors have been skeptical of the law, worried that its mandated $500 million cut in Medicare funding would diminish their access to quality care.