Washington, D.C. Medicare will begin mailing checks to tens of thousands of seniors beginning Thursday, June 10.

Under the recently enacted health reform law, seniors who fall in the so-called 'donut hole' coverage gap in 2010 will receive a one-time tax-free $250 rebate check. These checks will continue to be mailed monthly over the next several months as seniors enter the coverage gap.

U.S. Rep. Rubn Hinojosa, D-McAllen, made the announcement on Wednesday saying the checks are "just the first benefit from health reform for seniors in the Medicare Prescription Drug program."

Beginning in January 2011, seniors in the donut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs. By 2020, the donut hole will be completely closed, Hinojosa said.

This is the first example of how the health care reform bill will strengthen Medicare and help seniors, he said. Prescription drugs cost many people thousands of dollars a year and this check is a down payment on reducing prescription drug costs for seniors and eventually closing the donut hole altogether.

The donut hole coverage gap is the period in the prescription drug benefit (once their prescription drug costs exceed $2,830) in which the beneficiary pays 100 percent of the cost of their drugs until they hit the catastrophic coverage threshold.

Under health care reform, the $250 checks are just the first step in reducing seniors prescription drug costs, according to the Congressman. Beginning next year, there is a 50 percent discount on prescription drugs in the donut hole, and by 2020, the donut hole is completely closed.

Last year, roughly 237,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Texas fell in the donut hole and received no extra help to defray the cost of their prescription drugs. Now, under health reform, help is on the way, Hinojosa said.

Medicare recipients dont have to do anything to get the $250 check once their drug costs for the year hit $2,830 the one-time check will be issued automatically. But Congressman Hinojosa warned seniors to be on the lookout for fraud.

Our Seniors must be very careful that they do not give out private information, said Hinojosa. All too often, we hear of our elderly residents being scammed by con-artists who prey on them day and night. No one should be asking you any questions when it comes to receiving your $250 donut hole check.

The checks will be mailed directly to those who qualify. Beneficiaries will not have to do anything to receive the check. It will be delivered directly. Seniors must not give out any personal information to strangers who either call or show up at their door step claiming to be Medicare representatives.

Making prescription drugs more affordable for seniors is only one of the many benefits for seniors included in the recently enacted health reform law. Other benefits for seniors include:

Provides free preventive care services under Medicare, beginning in 2011.

Strengthens Medicare by extending its solvency by an additional 12 years, from 2017 to 2029.

Improves seniors access to doctors.

Continues to reduce waste, fraud and abuse.

Improves care by helping doctors communicate and coordinate.

Expands home and community-based services to keep seniors in their home, instead of in nursing homes.