Some doughnut holes are good. For example, if you have a sweet-tooth to satisfy, I’d recommend Krispy Kreme chocolate glazed doughnut holes. Similarly, I’ve never been there, but according to the internet, the Donut Hole Cafe & Bakery is the place to go if you are looking for breakfast in Destin, Florida. But when it comes to Medicare prescription drug coverage, our seniors should be provided with the doughnuts, not the holes. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress recognize this fact; unfortunately, the Republicans do not.
The problem began with the Medicare prescription drug coverage program, which was established in 2005. The program drops millions of Americans into a hole by requiring them to pay monthly premiums all year around, but stopping coverage after a senior has paid $2,700 on prescriptions in a year. Coverage does not restart until the senior has spent $6,154. For seniors on fixed or limited incomes faced with significant prescription drug needs, this doughnut hole in coverage can pose a significant economic burden.
The doughnut hole is another example of the Republicans’ misplaced priorities.
While the doughnut hole was purportedly justified as a money saving provision, the same legislation provided privately run Medicare Advantage insurance plans with 14% more taxpayer money than similar Medicare plans run by the government. In addition, the legislation prohibited Medicare from negotiating with the drug companies over the price the government would pay for prescriptions. In short, when faced with an opportunity to funnel more taxpayer dollars to private insurance and drug companies, the Republicans’ purported fiscal responsibility went right out the window.
During the 2008 campaign, President Obama promised to close the doughnut hole. The health care reform legislation that passed earlier this year sets us on the path for doing just that. This year, more than one million seniors entering the doughnut hole have received a $250 rebate. Starting next year, drug companies will be required to provide a 50% discount on the cost of drugs while seniors are in the doughnut hole. That discount will continue until 2020, when the doughnut hole will be entirely eliminated. The doughnut hole closure is paid for by eliminating the unnecessary subsidy to private insurance companies who provide Medicare Advantage coverage, which will save taxpayers more than $100 billion over the next decade. Every single Republican in Congress opposed these changes.
The Medicare doughnut hole closure is yet another example of President Obama and the Democrats in Congress keeping their campaign promises, even in the face of unanimous Republican opposition. Write a letter to the editor thanking President Obama and the Democrats for standing up for our seniors, rather than for the drug companies.