Merkley Urges Support for Closing Medicare Donut Hole

Washington, D.C.
– Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley called for his colleagues in the U.S. Senate to support lowering prescription drug costs for seniors as part of an up-or-down vote to improve the health care reform bill that became law earlier this week.

When passed, the health care reform improvements bill will close the Medicare “donut hole” that forces seniors to pay full price for their prescription drugs in the gap between the initial coverage limit and the catastrophic coverage threshold.  The bill provides a $250 rebate to seniors in the donut hole in 2010, institutes a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole in 2011, and then gradually closes the donut hole entirely.

“The Medicare donut hole is a flaw in our health care system that has been financially squeezing our seniors,” Merkley said.  “This week, we have an outstanding opportunity to close the donut hole and lower costs for seniors who depend on prescription drugs to stay healthy.  It’s important that we have an up-or-down vote as quickly as possible to improve the health care reform bill and save money for seniors.”

In addition to closing the Medicare donut hole, the improvements bill will make health insurance more affordable for low-income and moderate-income families and eliminate special deals that were included in the health care reform bill such as the “Cornhusker Kickback” that would have provided extra Medicaid funding to Nebraska.