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Santorum Defends Medicare Drug Doughnut Hole: ‘That Was A Good Allocation Of Money’

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"Santorum Defends Medicare Drug Doughnut Hole: ‘That Was A Good Allocation Of Money’"

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Former Senator and potential 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA) appeared on Fox News to attack health care reform but defended the Medicare prescription drug doughnut hole, a provision passed by Congress in 2003, which forces seniors to pay out of pocket for their drug costs once they fall into a coverage gap:

SANTORUM: They got an expansion of the Medicare Prescription Drug Program, but that program was designed to do two things: take care of seniors who were poor and needed drug coverage and those who are high users of prescription drugs. It did both. It left a little hole in the middle for those, who frankly could afford to do it. And that was a good allocation of money. The Democrats said, ‘well we don’t care, we’re just going to throw more money at seniors, to offset the fact that we’re making huge cuts in Medicare.’

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Under the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, enrollees enter the doughnut hole when their total drug spending equals $2,830 and receive no Medicare coverage until they reach $6,440 in total drug spending. Almost three and half million, or 26 percent, of Medicare Part D enrollees reached this coverage gap in 2007 and those who couldn’t afford to pay for their medications stopped taking medicines altogether. For instance, a recent study of diabetes patients — who typically require multiple medications — found that beneficiaries who fell into the gap cut back on their drugs, “which may result in worse health outcomes.”

The health law relies on money from the pharmaceutical industry to close the gap in coverage, and HHS has been sending partial rebates to Part D beneficiaries who have reached the doughnut hole. Beginning this year, Part D beneficiaries who reach the doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount. This will be phased up to a 75 percent discount on brand name drugs by 2020 and a 7 percent discount on generic drugs — bringing costs to Part D beneficiaries back down to 25 percent (standard coverage level), thereby effectively closing the doughnut hole.

Towards the end of the segment, Sanotrum also expressed outrage that Democrats offset the costs of the coverage expansion by saving money in Medicare, saying “the Medicare program itself is in trouble and needs to be reformed to save it!” Of course, actuaries have estimated that reform would do just that, extending the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by 12 years.

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