Affordable Care Act Saves $260 Million This Year

By Donald M. Berwick, M.D., Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Cross posted from Healthcare.gov

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, almost half a million individuals enrolled in Medicare’s prescription drug benefit have received a 50 percent discount on their out-of-pocket costs in the first five months of 2011.

Because of Medicare improvements in the Affordable Care Act, beneficiaries now automatically receive a 50 percent discount on covered brand-name drugs in the Part D coverage gap, or “donut hole,” and have saved more than $260 million so far this year.

In May alone, we have seen a 76 percent increase in the number of beneficiaries receiving this discount (478,272 individuals through the end of May compared to 270,900 through the end of April). In addition, the total savings these beneficiaries received grew over 56 percent in one month, for a total average savings of $545 per beneficiary (for state-by-state figures, please click here).

Most of these discounts are helping Americans with serious medical conditions – nearly 14 percent of the benefits provided to date – more than $36 million – are for cancer drugs, more than 8 percent or $21 million for drugs to help control high blood pressure and cholesterol, and another more than 7 percent – about $20 million – are for drugs provides to diabetic patients.

As more and more beneficiaries hit the donut hole through the rest of this year, the numbers will continue to climb. All of these beneficiaries will see savings on their drug costs that were not available in previous years.

And cheaper prescriptions are just one of the many ways the Affordable Care Act is improving Medicare for seniors. Thanks to the new law, many preventive care screenings are available free of charge. As of June 10, we found that about 5.5 million people with Medicare have accessed one or more preventive measures and last week, we launched a new awareness effort– Share the News, Share the Health – to highlight Medicare’s preventive benefits and encourage Medicare beneficiaries taking advantage of these potentially lifesaving services.

More information on the free preventive services that are available to people on Medicare can be found on the “Manage Your Health” tab at www.Medicare.gov.