Good Riddance Medicare Donut Hole!
Medicare’s donut hole is the bane of existence for retirees with expensive medications.
They will get substantial relief in 2025, when the Inflation Reduction Act, signed by President Biden last week, will cap all retirees’ annual drug copayments at $2,000. Monthly drug plan premiums are not included in this cap.
The cap will effectively eliminate the donut hole that currently requires retirees to pay 25 percent of the cost of their prescription drugs until they reach a threshold amount. The threshold increases every year and hit $7,050 this year.
A relatively small group of about 1.5 million retirees pay more than $2,000 for their prescriptions. But many of them are spending $5,000, $10,000 or more.
“It’s going to be an amazing thing” if the cap is implemented as Congress intended, said Ashlee Zareczny, compliance supervisor for Elite Insurance Partners, a Medicare health insurance broker outside Tampa.
Some of her firm’s retired clients pay so much for their medications that they have to make difficult choices between medications and food or other essential items. People who rely on Social Security “shouldn’t have to make those choices,” Zareczny said.
The cap will apply to all Medicare beneficiaries, whether they get their prescription drug coverage through a Part D plan or Medicare Advantage insurance plan, she said.
Under the current system, insurers that sell Medicare drug plans have a $480 maximum they are permitted to charge for the deductible. After meeting the deductible, retirees make their predetermined copayments under the insurance plan. They enter the donut hole after they spend $4,430 out of pocket, and then they are required to pay 25 percent of the cost of their drugs until they reach a threshold that pushes them into the catastrophic phase of Medicare’s drug coverage.
Once the catastrophic coverage kicks in, however, they are still responsible for 5 percent of the remaining drug costs. In 2024 – a year before the $2,000 cap goes into effect – the new healthcare law will eliminate the 5 percent copay.
The cap on total spending will protect any retiree who develops a medical condition requiring them to take very expensive medications. Currently, there is no limit on how much they may have to spend.
And, Zaraczny said, “They’re not prepared to put forth this money.”
Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us on Twitter @SquaredAwayBC. To stay current on our blog, please join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here. This blog is supported by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
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