Health Law Changes May Save Seniors Billions

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Under the new Affordable Care Act, seniors and people with disabilities in Medicare have so far saved a total of $3.5 billion on prescription drugs in the Medicare drug benefit coverage gap or “donut hole.”

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released data last week showing that in the first four months of 2012 alone more than 416,000 people saved an average of $724 each on the prescription drugs they purchased after they hit the prescription drug coverage gap or “donut hole.” The savings for the year so far totaled $301.5 million. 

In 2010 and 2011, more than 5.1 million people with Medicare saved over $3.2 billion on prescription drugs.

In addition, so far this year 12.1 million people in traditional Medicare received at least one preventive service at no cost to them — including over 856,000 who have taken advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit provided in the Affordable Care Act. In 2011, more than 26 million people in traditional Medicare received one or more preventive benefits free of charge.

“Thanks to the health care law, millions of people with Medicare have paid less for health care and prescription drugs,” said CMS Acting Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “The law is helping people with Medicare lower their medical costs, and giving them more resources to stay healthy.”

 People with Medicare who hit the coverage gap “donut hole” in 2010 received a one-time $250 rebate. In 2011, people with Medicare began receiving a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and 7 percent coverage of generic drugs in the “donut hole.” This year, Medicare coverage for generic drugs in the coverage gap has risen to 14 percent.  Coverage for both brand name and generic drugs in the gap will continue to increase over time until 2020, when the coverage gap will no longer exist.

Prior to 2011, people with Medicare faced cost-sharing for many preventive benefits like cancer screenings and smoking cessation counseling. Now, many of these benefits are offered free of charge to beneficiaries, with no deductible or co-pay, so that cost is no longer a barrier for seniors who want to find and treat problems early.

To learn what screenings, vaccinations and other preventive services doctors recommend for you and those you care about, please visit the myhealthfinder tool at www.healthfinder.gov.

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