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Report: Seniors saw big savings on prescription drugs under ACA

By KATE FARRISH Conn. Health I-Team Writer

Publication: The Day

Published March 23. 2013 4:00AM

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted three years ago this week, Connecticut seniors have saved a total of $84 million on prescription drugs, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Thursday.

Connecticut Medicare recipients have saved an average of $1,174, according to the HHS' press release.

Nationally, HHS said the savings have hit more than $6 billion for 6.3 million people with Medicare since the ACA became law on March 23, 2010.

Advocates say the health care law is making Part D prescription drug coverage more affordable by gradually closing what is known as the "doughnut hole." This is the gap in coverage where beneficiaries were paying the full cost of prescriptions out of pocket while also paying premiums.

Frances G. Padilla, president of the Universal Health Care Foundation, said the announcement was good news. "This is one of the real advantages of the Affordable Care Act,'' she said. "This remedies a serious problem for our seniors."

While critics of the act have warned that the provision would hurt the economy and prompt employers to cut jobs, Padilla said she has seen no evidence of that in the state.

The AARP in Connecticut is also pleased with the "many successes" of the act in the three years since its passage, said spokeswoman Jennifer Millea.

"Americans young and old, including thousands here in Connecticut, are already experiencing valuable savings and benefits that were previously unavailable or unaffordable,'' Millea said in an email. "By closing the drug coverage gap ... over time, the ACA is saving individual seniors in Connecticut hundreds of dollars annually - savings that they can now use to pay for food, housing and other necessities."

In 2012, the gap in coverage kicked in when Medicare recipients had spent $2,930 on prescription drugs and were forced to cover an additional $1,770 for medication, according to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare.

In 2010, the ACA sent those who reached the doughnut hole a one-time $250 payment. Since 2011, the law has phased in discounts on brand-name and generic prescription drugs, with the aim of closing the gap entirely by 2020.

This year, the health care law increases the savings to 52.5 percent of the cost of most brand-name drugs and 21 percent of the cost of covered generic medication, HHS said. The department also said the law made Medicare more secure and provided those who enroll in Part D plans with more high-quality choices.

This story was reported under a partnership with the Connecticut Health I-Team (www.c-hit.org).

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