Millionth senior receives Medicare 'doughnut hole' check

More than 1 million seniors have received $250 checks to help pay for their Medicare prescription drugs, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said Monday. The healthcare reform law over time closes the so-called "doughnut hole" in which Medicare beneficiaries who reach a certain threshold of drug expenses pay the full cost of their drugs.

"Many seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare face extraordinary prescription drug costs, and too often stop following the drug regimens that their doctors have recommended as a result," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "These checks will make a difference in helping seniors continue to get the medications they need, and are one of many ways that the Affordable Care Act is helping seniors."

The $250 rebate checks are the first step in closing the gap. Next year, beneficiaries will receive a 50 percent discount on their brand-name drugs, and the gap will be completely closed over time.

About 4 million seniors are expected to receive the $250 rebates.