Nearly 10.7 million Medicare beneficiaries have received discounts totaling over $20.8 billion on prescription drugs, an average of $1,945 per beneficiary, since the enactment of the Affordable Care Act.
According to new HHS data released Monday, nearly 5.2 million seniors and people with disabilities received discounts of over $5.4 billion, for an average of $1,054 per beneficiary in 2015 alone. The savings in 2015 is a 12% increase compared to the amount saved in 2014, when 5.1 million Medicare beneficiaries received discounts of $4.8 billion. That equaled an average of $941 per beneficiary in 2014, the report said.
"Medicare consumers are now more engaged and empowered in their own health thanks to the Affordable Care Act," said CMS acting Administrator Andy Slavitt in a statement. "Millions are now able to access more affordable prescription medicine for their chronic conditions, and millions more are staying healthier by accessing preventive services, especially vital for people living with disabilities or growing older."
An increasing number of Medicare beneficiaries also continue to take advantage of recommended preventive services that are offered with no coinsurance, the report said. An estimated 39.2 million people with Medicare, including those enrolled in Medicare Advantage, took advantage of at least one preventive service with no copays or deductibles in 2015, which was slightly more than in 2014, the report said.
More Medicare beneficiaries took advantage of annual wellness visits in 2015, as well. According to the HHS report, almost 9 million Medicare beneficiaries, including those enrolled in Medicare Advantage, had an annual wellness visit in 2015. And in traditional Medicare, 5.8 million people took advantage of annual wellness visits in 2015, compared to nearly 4.8 million in 2014. By making some preventive services available with no cost-sharing, the ACA attempts to remove barriers to prevention, the report said.
The announcement on Monday is part of a larger strategy meant to change the healthcare system by paying physicians based on the quality of care they provide patients, the release said. Last January, HHS announced the goal of tying 30% of Medicare payments to quality and value through alternative payment models by 2016 and 50% of payments by 2018.
The ACA also aims to close the gap in coverage where beneficiaries had to pay the full cost of their prescriptions out of pocket, before catastrophic coverage for prescriptions took effect. The federal government aims to close the gap by 2020, the report said. In 2016, people with Medicare Part D who are in the gap will receive discounts and savings of 55% on the cost of brand name drugs and 42% on the cost of generic drugs, according to the release.