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Anne Polta, Forum Communications Co., Published July 23 2010

‘Doughnut hole’ rebates arrive

WILLMAR, Minn. – Refund checks are starting to trickle through the mail to Medicare recipients whose high prescription drug expenses pushed them into the “doughnut hole” last year.

The one-time tax-free rebates, for $250 apiece, are being issued under a provision of the new health care reform law that aims to close the gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Kate Selseth, aging program director at the Minnesota Valley Area Agency on Aging, and her staff have had few phone calls or questions so far about the refund checks. But she expects that to change by fall, as more seniors qualify for the rebate.

Some 300,000 Medicare recipients nationwide were eligible for the most recent round of rebates that were mailed out in June.

Minnesota officials say that by the end of this year, some 65,000 Minnesotans will have received the $250 refund.

JoAnn Jagt, who oversees the Health Insurance Counseling Program at Rice Memorial Hospital, thinks the money will be welcomed by older adults with high prescription drug costs.

Generally, it’s those who are on the most medications or who are taking expensive specialty drugs who enter the annual doughnut hole, she said.

During this gap in coverage, they must pay 100 percent of their prescription drug costs until they reach the threshold for catastrophic coverage.

Anne Polta is a writer for the Willmar Central Tribune