In 2006, the first year of operation for Medicare Part D, the donut hole in the defined standard benefit covered a range in true out-of-pocket expenses (TrOOP) costs from $750 to $3,600. (The first $750 of TrOOP comes from a $250 deductible phase, and $500 in the initial coverage limit, in which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) covers 75 percent of the next $2,000.) In the first year of operation, there was a substantial reduction in out-of-pocket costs and a moderate increase in medication utilization among Medicare beneficiaries, although there was no evidence of improvement in emergency department use, hospitalizations, or preference-based health utility for those eligible for Part D.
Understanding the Medicare Part D Donut Hole
Once you and your Part D drug plan have spent $2,840 for covered drugs, you will be in the donut hole. Previously, you had to pay the full cost of your prescription drugs while in the donut hole. However, in 2011, you get a 50% discount on covered brand-name prescription medications. The donut hole continues until your total out-of-pocket cost reaches $4,550. This annual out-of-pocket spending amount includes your yearly deductible, copayment, and coinsurance amounts.
What is the Medicare Donut Hole?
This means that while enrollees are in the doughnut hole, the coverage gap can amount to thousands of dollars. In other words, while in the doughnut hole enrollees must pay 100% of the retail cost of their drugs until they have spent a set amount. Some PDPs offer minimal coverage on things like generic drugs while enrollees are in the doughnut hole, though these types of plans will usually charge a higher monthly premium. Once an enrollee reaches the total out-of-pocket limit during the coverage gap, they are bumped into "catastrophic coverage." Catastrophic coverage guarantees that once an enrollee has spent up to his or her plan’s out-of-pocket limit for covered prescriptions the person will only pay a nominal coinsurance fee or copayment for their drugs for the rest of the year. This works out to the enrollee paying about 5% of subsequent drug costs after the doughnut hole, their plan paying about 15%, and Medicare covering about 80%.
Medicare Part D Doughnut Hole Is a Gap in Coverage
"If you have high drug costs, you may consider which plans offer additional coverage until you spend $3,600 out-of-pocket. In some plans, if your costs reach an initial coverage limit, then you pay 100% of your prescription costs. This is called the coverage gap. This "gap" in coverage is generally above $2,250 in total drug costs until you spend $3,600 out-of-pocket. Some plans might offer some coverage during the gap. Even in plans where you pay 100% of covered drug costs after a certain limit, you would still pay less for your prescriptions than you would without this drug coverage", according to Medicare.gov.
Medicare Doughnut Hole Definition
A range of total prescription drug spending in the Medicare Part D program where all of the costs must be covered out-of-pocket. As a result of the Medicare doughnut hole, Medicare Part D participants are forced to choose between paying higher insurance premiums, or potentially paying thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to bridge the coverage gap. Many lower-income participants in Medicare are unable to afford either option.
Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Guide: Doughnut Hole Coverage Gap
While in the gap, in 2014 you pay 47.50 percent of the cost of brand-name drugs and 72 percent of generic drugs. (Fifty percent of the discount on brand-name drugs is paid by the companies that manufacture them, and the rest by the federal government. The discount on generic drugs is wholly paid by the federal government.) In subsequent years, these costs will reduce until, by 2020, you pay no more than 25 percent of the cost of any drug in the gap.