Donut Hole and Part D

Donut Hole

Why do my drug costs vary throughout the year?

Your drug costs under Part D can vary during the year for different reasons. One reason, which impacts about 7% of those with Medicare Part D, is the Coverage Gap, also called the donut hole. (See below for details.)


What is the donut hole?

Medicare Part D coverage has three phases*, the initial coverage phase, the coverage gap and the catastrophic coverage phase. Your cost during the initial coverage phase varies based on the plan you choose and the tier level of the drug. You will pay either a fixed amount or a percent of the full cost of the drug ($0 – 50% ).

*some plans also have a deductible which must be met before the plan starts paying anything towards drugs. After you reach the deductible, you will enter the initial coverage phase.

The “donut hole” or coverage gap in Part D occurs when the total cost of your covered drugs (what both you and the plan have paid, not including premiums) exceeds the “initial coverage limit.” The initial coverage limit for 2024 is $5,030. It changes each year. When the total that you and your plan have paid during the year exceeds this amount you enter the donut hole. In this phase you will pay a higher copay for your prescription drugs and your plan will pay less. In 2024 you will pay 25% of the full price of drugs while in the donut hole.

Once your out-of-pocket costs for the year (i.e., the deductible and any copays you have paid) exceed $8,000 you will be out of the donut hole and into the catastrophic coverage phase for the rest of the year. At this point, starting in 2024,  you will pay nothing for your drugs for the remainder of the year.

The donut hole does not apply to those who receive Extra Help for prescription drugs.

Help! I’m going to hit the donut hole — What can I do?

More information about how to save money on prescription drugs whether or not you’re in the donut hole.

We recommend that you make an appointment to see a HICAP counselor for assistance. See the list of Contra Costa HICAP counseling sites.

More information about Medicare Prescription Drug coverage.

The 2024 DONUT HOLE graphic

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