Good News for People with Medicare and Their Doctors

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted December 09, 2010

Strengthening Medicare is one of our top priorities and today marks an important day for people on Medicare and their doctors and other health care providers. With strong support from the Administration, Congress has passed legislation that will prevent a significant pay cut for doctors from taking effect on January 1 and extend critical Medicare and Medicaid policies that would otherwise expire at the end of this year.

This action will help us to ensure that people with Medicare can continue to see the doctor they know and trust. We know that stable, predictable, and adequate payments for health care providers are critical to allowing them to give patients the best care possible. Medicare is so important for millions of Americans, ranging from elderly couples to middle-aged people living with a significant disability, which is why fixing this unfair pay cut has been a top priority for the President and the Department of Health and Human Services.

This one-year fix will help provide some important stability and security for doctors and their patients as we continue to work with Congress on a permanent solution to fix Medicare’s physician payment system once and for all.

As we head into a new year, as a result of this legislation, people with Medicare are assured the same quality of, and access to, care they had before. For example, the legislation extends for a year a program that helps low income Medicare beneficiaries pay their Medicare Part B premiums.

While this is great news, I would encourage Medicare beneficiaries and their caregivers to check out some of the other important things happening in 2011 to further strengthen Medicare.

Starting in January 2011, if you hit the prescription drug donut hole, you will get a 50% discount on brand-name drugs. Starting in 2013, you will pay less and less for your brand-name Part D prescription drugs in the donut hole.

By 2020, the coverage gap will be closed, which means there will be no more “donut hole,” and you will only pay 25% of the costs of your drugs until you reach the yearly out-of-pocket spending limit.  Seniors will also get certain free preventive services, such as annual wellness visits and personalized prevention plans.

Strengthening Medicare also means extending the Medicare Trust fund, and it means ensuring better coordination of care between doctors so you’ll be less likely to experience preventable and harmful re-admissions to the hospital.

And these examples are just the beginning. The Affordable Care Act also aggressively fights Medicare fraud and enhances benefits in the Medicare Advantage program.

For more about what we’re doing to make Medicare stronger and to get your questions about Medicare answered, visit http://www.medicare.gov/. To find out if you qualify for extra help or to apply, call or visit your State Medical Assistance (Medicaid) office, and ask for information on Medicare Savings Programs.