What is the “Donut Hole”?

Feb 17, 2016 (0) comment

Most Medicare Prescription Drug Plans have a coverage gap (also called the “donut hole”). This means there’s a temporary limit on what the drug plan will cover for drugs.

Not everyone will enter the coverage gap. The coverage gap begins after you and your drug plan have spent a certain amount for covered drugs. In 2016, once you and your plan have spent $3,310 on covered drugs (the combined amount plus your deductible), you’re in the coverage gap. This amount may change each year. Also, people with Medicare who get “Extra Help” paying Part D costs won’t enter the coverage gap.

Once you reach the coverage gap in 2016, you’ll pay 45% of the plan’s cost for covered brand-name prescription drugs. You get these savings if you buy your prescriptions at a pharmacy or order them through the mail. The discount will come off of the price that your plan has set with the pharmacy for that specific drug.

Although you’ll only pay 45% of the price for the brand-name drug in 2016, 95% of the price—what you pay plus the 50% manufacturer discount payment—will count as out-of-pocket costs which will help you get out of the coverage gap. What the drug plan pays toward the drug cost (5% of the price) and what the drug plan pays toward the dispensing fee (55% of the fee) aren’t counted toward your out-of-pocket spending.


Mrs. Anderson reaches the coverage gap in her Medicare drug plan. She goes to her pharmacy to fill a prescription for a covered brand-name drug. The price for the drug is $60, and there’s a $2 dispensing fee that gets added to the cost. Mrs. Anderson will pay 45% of the plan’s cost for the drug ($60 x .45 = $27) plus 45% of the cost of the dispensing fee ($2 x .45 = $0.90), or a total of $27.90, for her prescription. $57.90 will be counted as out-of-pocket spending and will help Mrs. Anderson get out of the coverage gap because both the amount that Mrs. Anderson pays ($27.90) plus the manufacturer discount payment ($30.00) count as out-of-pocket spending. The remaining $4.10, which is 5% of the drug cost and 55% of the dispensing fee paid by the drug plan, isn’t counted toward Mrs. Anderson’s out-of-pocket spending.

In 2015, Medicare paid 35% of the price for generic drugs during the coverage gap. You’ll pay the remaining 65% of the price. What you pay for generic drugs during the coverage gap will decrease each year until it reaches 25% in 2020. The coverage for generic drugs works differently.

To speak with a Cornerstone advisor about your specific Medicare needs, call 888-384-5017 or submit a request for an advisor to speak with you.  Click Here.

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