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Drug companies offer hope for NC seniors on Medicare

A new healthcare proposal from President Barack Obama today offers an encouraging sign to more than one million Medicare beneficiaries in North Carolina. President Obama says he's reached an agreement with major drug companies to fill a gap in Medicare prescription coverage known as "the donut hole." Despite its name, the donut hole is not a sweet treat. Rather, it's the place Medicare recipients end up once they've exhausted their initial prescription coverage for the year, but before they've spent enough out-of-pocket to qualify for catastrophic coverage. People can end up spending thousands of dollars to keep their prescriptions filled while in the gap, and Carla Obiol says few North Carolina seniors escape it. "Many people are opposed to the donut hole," says Obiol, director of the Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program for the state. "They'd rather have less coverage up front and have coverage all year long than to hit what they refer to as the brick wall when they get to the donut hole. So I would say it's problematic for most people." President Obama now says drug companies will spend $80 Billion over the next decade to off-set the cost of prescriptions for Medicare recipients who hit the donut hole. Obiol says there are ways to delay the gap, too, such as choosing generic drugs. The state-funded Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program offers free tips and Medicare advice at 1-800-443-9354.