More than 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved over $7 billion on prescription drugs as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care reform law, according to new information released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).


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HHS tallies Medicare Rx savings from ACA

July 30th, 2013

WASHINGTON – More than 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved over $7 billion on prescription drugs as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) health care reform law, according to new information released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HHS said Monday that the savings, announced on the eve of the 48th anniversary of the signing of Medicare and Medicaid into law, average $1,061 per beneficiary in drug costs while a beneficiary is in the "doughnut hole" coverage gap that the ACA closes over time.

In addition, HHS noted, 16.5 million people with traditional Medicare took advantage of at least one free preventive service in the first six months of 2013.

The information comes amid historically low levels of growth in Medicare spending, according to HHS. From 2010 to 2012, Medicare spending per beneficiary grew at 1.7% annually, more slowly than the average rate of growth in the Consumer Price Index, and much more slowly than the per capita rate of growth in the economy, the department said.

"Medicare is much stronger as a result of the health care law," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement. "Spending has slowed to historic levels, as seniors are enjoying enhanced benefits and greater savings on drugs."

People with Medicare in the doughnut hole now get discounts and some coverage when they buy prescription drugs at a pharmacy or order them via the mail, until they reach the catastrophic coverage phase. The ACA gave those who reached the gap in 2010 a one-time $250 check and then began phasing in discounts and coverage for brand-name and generic drugs starting in 2011. The law will provide more savings each year until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.

The ACA also is making certain preventive health services available with no cost-sharing obligations, HHS added. In Medicare, the law eliminated coinsurance and the Part B deductible for recommended preventive services, including many cancer screenings and other key benefits. For instance, before the law's passage, a person with Medicare could pay as much as $160 in cost-sharing for some colorectal cancer screenings, while today that screening is free, HHS said.

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