Millions of Seniors Saving Money on Prescription Drugs, Thanks to the Affordable Care Act

By Nancy-Ann DeParle. Crosspost from The White House Blog

Over the weekend, a report by the Associated Press detailed how the Affordable Care Act is dramatically reducing drug costs for seniors who hit the prescription drug coverage gap known as the donut hole. This year, seniors are benefiting from a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole. And the discount and other provisions in the law are saving money for seniors. As the AP reported:

The average beneficiary who falls into the coverage gap would have spent $1,504 this year on prescriptions. But thanks to discounts and other provisions in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law, that cost fell to $901, according to Medicare’s Office of the Actuary, which handles economic estimates.

So far this year, more than 2.2 million people with Medicare have saved more than $1.2 billion on their prescriptions. The Associated Press spoke with two of them:

For retired elementary school teacher Carolyn Friedman, it meant she didn’t need a loan to pay for drugs that keep her epilepsy under control.

“What a change for the better,” said Friedman, 71, of Sunrise, Fla. “This year it was easier to pay my bills, whereas last year I had to borrow money to pay for my medications when I was in the doughnut hole.”

Joan Gibbs thought her pharmacy had made a mistake. Her total cost for a brand-name painkiller in the doughnut hole came out lower than her co-payment earlier in the year, at a time her plan was picking up most of the tab.

“I reluctantly called the insurance company,” said Gibbs, 54, who lives near Cleveland. “If they had made a mistake, I knew they would catch it sooner or later. I was very surprised that it turned out to be such a good discount.”

Gibbs is on Medicare because of an auto-immune disorder and other medical problems that left her unable to work.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, seniors will receive bigger discounts in the years ahead. By 2020, the donut hole will be closed completely.

And even if you don’t hit the donut hole, there’s still good news for beneficiaries with Medicare Part D. Prescription drug premiums will not rise next year, and thanks to health reform, seniors can get preventive services like mammograms and other cancer screenings for free.

Nancy-Ann DeParle is the Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff

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