Health Care Law Saves Seniors Billions on Prescription Drugs

By Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Posted February 07, 2013

For the third straight year, the Affordable Care Act provided millions of American seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare lower costs on prescription drugs and improved benefits.  Since the health care law’s enactment, 6.1 million Medicare beneficiaries have saved over $5.7 billion on prescription drugs.

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act provided a one-time $250 check for people with Medicare who reached the Part D prescription drug coverage gap also known as the “donut hole.” Since then, individuals in the “donut hole” have continued to receive discounts on prescription drugs. Discounts on both brand name and generic drugs will continue to increase each year until the coverage gap is completely closed in 2020.

In 2012, 3.5 million people with Medicare in the “donut hole” saved $2.5 billion on prescription drugs, more than the $2.3 billion they saved in 2011.

Increased Access to Preventive Services

In addition to making prescription drugs more affordable, the Affordable Care Act is helping Americans take charge of their own health by removing barriers to preventive services.  Prior to the healthcare law, people with Medicare had to pay deductibles or co-pays for many preventive care services.  But in 2012, many recommended preventive services, including annual wellness visits, were offered to people with Medicare, with no deductibles or co-pays.  Cost is no longer an issue for seniors and people with disabilities who want to stay healthy by detecting and treating health problems early. 

As a result of better access, use of preventive services has expanded among Medicare beneficiaries.  An estimated 34.1 million people with Medicare benefited from coverage of preventive services with no cost-sharing last year.

Under the Affordable Care Act, the Medicare program has also been strengthened in other areas.  Compared to 2011, people with Medicare saw only moderate premium increases in 2012 for Medicare Part B benefits, which cover outpatient care, doctors' services, lab tests, durable medical supplies, and other services.  For those who enrolled in Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans, average premiums remained steady.  And they now have access to a wider range of high-quality plan choices, with more four and five star plans than were previously available.  Moreover, the Affordable Care Act continues to make Medicare a more secure program, with new tools and enhanced authority to crack down on criminals who are looking to defraud the program.

With free preventive services and more affordable prescription drugs, Medicare is improving access to care and promoting the best care for people with Medicare.

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