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Seniors Getting Improved Medicare Benefits Due to Affordable Care Act


In 2009, the federal government predicted that health care reform would strengthen the care that US seniors would receive. The prediction appears to have come true, as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced last week that more seniors are seeing reduced costs through expanded access to free preventive care and discounts on brand-name drugs.

Increase in Prescription Coverage, Preventive Screenings

The United States spends more on health care than any other developed country. Medicare is the single largest payer, with expenditures in 2008 of $386 billion. With the Baby Boomer generation beginning to reach Medicare age, this is expected to jump to $797 billion by 2018.

The Affordable Care Act has provided some financial relief to Medicare-eligible seniors who would otherwise pay for certain costs out-of-pocket. According to CMS Administrator Donald M. Berwick MD (who coincidentally just turned 65 and qualifies for Medicare himself), says that so far this year, 18.9 million people – or 55.6% of those enrolled in traditional Medicare - have used at least one of the preventive services with no cost to them.

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Most of these services help to prevent chronic diseases that eventually would cost Medicare billions to treat. For example, over 1.2 million Americans with Original Medicare have taken advantage of the new Annual Wellness Visit, which screens seniors for risk factors such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar.

In addition, more seniors are getting help affording prescription drugs. Nearly 1.3 million have received discounts on brand-name drugs through the end of July, up from 899,000 through the end of June. Medicare-eligible persons receiving this discount have saved an average of $517 this year. Overall, the discounts have totaled $660 million in savings for seniors and persons with disabilities.

In June, Medicare launched the “Share the News, Share the Health!” campaign which raises awareness about the importance of preventive care. The website lists the preventive services offered to Medicare-enrolled seniors so they can discuss their individual needs with their physicians.

"Today's news confirms that the Affordable Care Act is saving money for millions of seniors and people with disabilities who are enrolled in Medicare," said Dr. Berwick. "These new benefits are encouraging patients to talk to their doctors about their care, and to get the preventive services they need.”

For more information about how the Affordable Care Act closes the donut hole over time, please visit: http://www.medicare.gov/Publications/Pubs/pdf/11493.pdf