Seniors in the Donut Hole Have Already Saved $166 Million on Prescription Drugs

By Jonathan Blum, Deputy Administrator and Director, Center for Medicare & Medicaid. Crosspost from Healthcare.gov

The Affordable Care Act is cutting the cost of prescription drugs for millions of people with Medicare. Starting this year, people with Medicare receive a 50% percent discount on covered brand name drugs bought when they are in the donut hole.

To receive the discount, no special action is required. Seniors simply purchase drugs at the pharmacy and receive the discount automatically.

So far, 271,000 people have used the discounts to save an average of $613 for a total of $166 million. These savings will continue to grow.  Most people who reach the donut hole do so later in the year, so we know more and more seniors will be helped as the year progresses.  But seniors with high costs are already receiving critical relief from prescription drug costs.

Most of these discounts are helping seniors with serious medical conditions – nearly 20% of the benefits provided to date – more than $32 million – are for cancer drugs and another nearly 10% – about $16 million – are for drugs provide to multiple sclerosis patients. 

Last year, Medicare provided immediate relief to seniors with high drug costs in the form of a one-time $250 rebate check for every person who fell into the donut hole.  Nearly 4 million seniors received checks to help defray the costs of prescription drugs.  This year that assistance has been expanded, and by the end of the decade – thanks to the health care law – the donut hole will be closed.

This is only part of the help people with Medicare are getting this year.  Since January 1, people with Medicare may receive for an annual Wellness Visit with their doctor to make a plan to keep healthy  Also, all those with Medicare can receive recommended preventive care, including certain cancer screenings, for free.  All of these improvements to Medicare will help Americans with Medicare live longer, healthier lives.  That’s the kind of good news we can all celebrate.

Visit this page to see how many people with Medicare have received discounts on their prescription drugs in your State – and the average and total discount amounts by State.