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7.9 million seniors on Medicare saved over $9.9B on prescription drugs

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The Affordable Care Act (ACA) impacted the lives 7.9 million seniors over 65 years old on the Medicare program have saved over $9.9 billion dollars on their prescription drugs or an average of $1,265 per beneficiary, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced yesterday.

The ACA was signed into law four years ago and one of President Barack Obama's goals was to close the prescription drug "donut hole." While there were no banners in the background, It is safe to say when it came to Medicare Part D's "donut hole," the Obama administration can claim "Mission Accomplished."

In 2013 alone, 4.3 million seniors and people with disabilities saved $3.9 billion, or an average of $911 per beneficiary. These figures are higher than in 2012, when 3.5 million beneficiaries saved $2.5 billion, for an average of $706 per beneficiary.

As if that weren't enough, another benefit for seniors kicked in too.

In 2013, an estimated 37.2 million people with Medicare took advantage of at least one preventive service with no cost sharing, including an estimated 26.5 million people with traditional Medicare, and more than 4 million who took advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit. This exceeds the comparable figure from 2012, when an estimated 34.1 million people with Medicare, including 26.1 million with traditional Medicare, received one or more preventive benefits with no out of pocket costs.

By making certain preventive services available with no cost-sharing, the Affordable Care Act is helping Americans take charge of their own health. By removing barriers to prevention, Americans and health care professionals can better prevent illness, detect problems early when treatment works best, and monitor health conditions.

For Medicare, the Affordable Care Act eliminated coinsurance and the Part B deductible for recommended preventive services, including many cancer screenings and other important benefits. For example, before the Affordable Care Act, a person with Medicare could pay as much as $160 in cost-sharing for a colorectal cancer screening. Today, this important screening and many others are covered at no cost to beneficiaries (with no deductible or co-pay). This will help many seniors to stay healthy.

Again, "Mission Accomplished."

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we saw a stronger Medicare program in 2013," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Seniors are saving billions of dollars on their needed medications and continuing to enjoy benefits that will lead to healthier lives and lower costs in the long run."

The ACA has made the Medicare prescription drug coverage more affordable by gradually closing the gap in coverage where beneficiaries had to pay the full cost of their prescriptions out of pocket, before catastrophic coverage for prescriptions took effect.

Thanks to the health care law, in 2010, anyone with a Medicare prescription drug plan who reached the prescription drug donut hole got a $250 rebate. In 2011, beneficiaries in the donut hole began receiving discounts on covered brand-name drugs and savings on generic drugs.

People with Medicare Part D who fall into the donut hole this year will receive discounts and savings of about 53 percent on the cost of brand name drugs and about 28 percent on the cost of generic drugs. These savings and Medicare coverage will gradually increase until 2020, when the donut hole will be closed.

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Sources:

UPI - Sebelius marks fourth anniversary of Affordable Care Act

HHS pdf - State-by-state information on discounts in the donut hole

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Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, johnpresta@att.net.

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