HHS Praises ACA, Donut Hole Shrinks, and Preventive Care Use Rises

Over 9 million Medicare beneficiaries have saved over $15 billion on prescription drugs since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148). According to an HHS press release, beneficiaries have saved an average of $1,598 since the passage of the health care law. In the announcement, HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said that “by providing access to affordable prescription drugs and preventive services with no cost sharing, the Affordable Care Act is working for seniors to help keep them healthier.”

Prescription Drugs

According to HHS, in 2014 alone, 5.1 million seniors and people with disabilities saved a total of $4.8 billion on prescription drugs. The savings to the average beneficiary in 2014 amounted to $941. The figures are higher than they were in 2013, when 4.3 million beneficiaries saved a total of $3.9 billion at an average savings of $911 per beneficiary. The savings are a result of the ACA’s gradual closing of the coverage gap—known as the donut hole—where beneficiaries are forced to pay the full cost of prescriptions out of pocket before catastrophic coverage takes effect. HHS indicates that the donut hole is projected to be closed in 2020, marking 2015 as the halfway point. Under the ACA, in 2015, people with Medicare Part D who are in the donut hole will “receive discounts and savings of 55 percent on the cost of brand name drugs and 35 percent on the cost of generic drugs.”

Preventive Care

The HHS release also celebrated the success of preventive services under the ACA, with 39 million Medicare beneficiaries taking advantage of at least one preventative service with no cost sharing in 2014. Additionally in 2014, almost 4.8 million Medicare beneficiaries took advantage of the Annual Wellness Exam. These numbers represent considerable increases from 2013, when 37.2 million Medicare beneficiaries took advantage of at least one preventative service with no cost sharing and just over 4 million took the Annual Wellness Exam.