WASHINGTON — Government checks to seniors with high prescription drug bills are going out early, Obama administration officials said Thursday, plugging the advantages of the new health care overhaul law.
The $250 checks for Medicare recipients who fall into the prescription drug coverage gap are a new benefit this year, a modest down payment on gradually closing the "doughnut hole" over the next decade. Seniors who fall into the gap are responsible for $3,610 in drug costs in 2010 before their Medicare coverage kicks in again.
Health and Human Services spokeswoman Jessica Santillo said the rebates are going out ahead of the June 15 deadline set in the law. Some 4 million seniors and disabled people will get checks this year. The first monthly batch of 80,000 will be mailed out June 10.
Significant savings will come next year, when the law provides a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs for seniors in the gap, and a smaller discount on generics. Those discounts gradually increase year-by-year until 2020, when the coverage gap will be fully phased out.
War funding passes; aid to jobless fails
The Senate easily passed an almost $60 billion war funding bill Thursday, but anxiety over out-of-control budget deficits led House leaders to drop tens of billions of dollars in spending from a separate catch-all bill anchored by an extension of jobless benefits.
Confronted with a rebellion by Democratic moderates, House leaders planned to dump overboard $24 billion in aid to states and allow generous health insurance subsidies for laid-off workers to expire. The changes were an effort to round up votes to extend unemployment benefits and renew more than 50 popular tax breaks that expired last year.
Help for doctors facing a big cut in Medicare reimbursements would also be dropped from the measure, aides and lobbyists said, and is unlikely to be resurrected by a vote today.
Democrats will miss their self-imposed deadline of passing the jobless benefits measure before Memorial Day, even if the House passes the bill today. The Senate announced Thursday that it will not hold any more votes until senators return from their holiday break June 7.