Many seniors who participate in the Medicare program struggle to pay for their prescription medications each year. With the Original Medicare system, there is a prescription drug coverage gap of $3,610 - a shockingly high figure for many individuals who are no longer earning an income that allows them to comfortably afford the cost of their medications.

However, if Democrats are able to push through their proposed healthcare bill, seniors may start to see some relief at the cash register. Democrat lawmakers supporting the healthcare bill say the bill will reduce the prescription drug coverage gap by as much as $500 in 2010. By 2019, the coverage gap will be eliminated altogether.

Under the current Original Medicare system, seniors have to pay $3,610 each year for their medications before their Medicare coverage kicks in. The coverage gap is often referred to as the "doughnut hole" gap - and it has caused financial hardship for many Medicare beneficiaries who have no other means to pay for their medications.

"I personally am committed to fully closing the doughnut hole once and for all," Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said on the Senate floor. "The legislation we will send to President Obama for signature will make good on his promise, and ours, to forever end this indefensible injustice for America's seniors."

But who will pay for the cost of the decreased coverage gap? According to lawmakers, pharmaceutical companies will be responsible for paying for the reduced cost to Medicare beneficiaries. Pharmaceutical companies have already pledged $80 billion towards the healthcare overhaul. With the decreased coverage gap for medications, the pharmaceutical industry will need to pick up an additional $20 billion.

In addition to picking up the tab for the reduced coverage gap, pharmaceutical companies have also offered a 50 percent price discount on brand name medications that are in the coverage gap already.

Yet, even with the 50 percent discount and $500 decrease in the coverage gap, many seniors will still be hard-pressed to afford their prescription medications in the coming years with the large coverage gap. One solution for many Medicare beneficiaries is Medicare Supplemental insurance.

Medicare Supplemental Insurance

In order to help shrink the coverage gap on their own, many Medicare beneficiaries enroll in Medicare Supplemental insurance plans, which are also known as MediGap plans. These plans will help to cover any coverage gaps that exist within the Medicare system.

However, not all Medicare beneficiaries are automatically enrolled in Medicare Supplemental insurance plans and unless they have access to a Medigap advisor, some Medicare beneficiaries are not even aware that such coverage plans exist.

There are many different kinds of Medicare Supplemental insurance plans. Medicare Supplemental insurance plans are generally offered by health insurance companies and some health insurance companies offer more than one type of plan, which reinforces the importance of working with a qualified Medigap advisor to find the right Medigap plan.

Even as the lawmakers work on closing the Medicare coverage gap, many seniors will still want to enroll in Medicare Supplemental insurance plans, as the full coverage gap may take years to finally close. Moreover, the healthcare bill is still in the Senate and has not yet been passed. Therefore, the plan to close the coverage gap has not yet been fully approved.

Seniors wishing to make changes to their Medicare policies, including adding a Medicare Supplemental insurance plan, should do so during the annual Open Enrollment period, which starts each year on November 15th and ends on December 31.

Author's Bio: 

By Wiley Long - President, - The nation's leading independent agency specializing in Medicare Supplemental Insurance plans. We have professional advisors to help you with your Medigap insurance needs. You can also run an instant Medicare Supplement Quote online to compare plans.