More than 11.8 million Medicare beneficiaries have received discounts topping $26.8 billion, or an average of $2,272 per person, on prescription drugs since the Affordable Care Act was enacted, the HHS reported Friday.
In 2016, 4.9 million seniors and disabled people enrolled in Medicare reaped discounts of $5.6 billion, or $1,149 per beneficiary on average, the HHS said. In 2015, 5.2 million Medicare enrollees received drug discounts of $5.4 billion, or an average of $1,054 per beneficiary.
The HHS also estimated that 40.1 million people with Medicare and Medicare Advantage received a preventive service with no copays or deductibles in 2016. More than 10.3 million Medicare and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries went to the doctor for an annual wellness visit in 2016. For those enrolled in original fee-for-service Medicare, 6.6 million went for a wellness visits, compared with 5.8 million in 2015.
"While the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to 20 million Americans, the law is also a game changer for millions of older Americans,” CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said in a statement. "These benefits are providing seniors and people with disabilities with Medicare coverage increased financial security and the guarantee that they can get an important preventive screening without cost to them.”
The ACA made it easier for seniors and people with disabilities enrolled in Medicare to access affordable prescription drugs by providing discounts and savings on covered brand-name and generic drugs. Before the healthcare law, a coverage gap known as the “donut hole” meant some Medicare beneficiaries had to shell out the full cost of their prescription drugs after hitting their initial coverage limit before catastrophic plans kicked in. The HHS aims to close the gap fully by 2020.
People enrolled in Medicare Part D who are effected by the coverage gap in 2017 will receive discounts and savings of 60% on the cost of brand-name drugs and 49% on the cost of generic drugs, HHS said.
Last week, a report from the HHS Office of Inspector General, showed that drug spending for some Medicare beneficiaries has tripled since 2011, however. Federal payments for Medicare Part D catastrophic coverage exceeded $33 billion in 2015, compared with $10.8 billion in 2010.
The catastrophic drug benefit under Medicare Part D is meant to cover costs for beneficiaries with chronic conditions who pay high drug expenses. The coverage kicks in after beneficiaries spend $4,850 out of pocket. After that, taxpayers pick up most of the tab for the beneficiary.