The Washington Post reported that the average premium for basic Medicare drug coverage will stay the same next year, $30 a month. That’s the third year in a row of little or no change. In addition, Medicare recipients with high prescription costs are saving an average of $629 apiece thanks to a provision of the new health care law that gradually eliminates a coverage gap called the “doughnut hole.”

 

The Washington Post reported the White House were tough negotiators with drug industry executives to get a 2009 deal that helped keep health care overhaul legislation from bogging down in Congress.  Internal emails obtained from the industry by the House Energy and Commerce Committee shed light on the negotiations.  The drug industry’s $80 billion commitment gave Obama some momentum at a time when health care overhaul appeared to be bogging down on Capitol Hill. Drug makers agreed to help close Medicare’s prescription coverage gap, known as the “doughnut hole,” and to make other financial contributions.

The emails reveal the distrust among participants, bitter rivalries among insurers, drug makers and hospital groups, and high anxiety on all sides about the progress of the legislation.

 

USA Today reported that "almost 4 million seniors saved about $2.16 billion through discounts for their prescription medications in 2011", according to the Department of Health and Human Services.  "The 2010 health care law required a 50% discount on prescription drugs in the so-called doughnut hole, or the gap between traditional and catastrophic coverage in the Medicare drug benefit, also known as Part D. In 2012, the coverage gap is $2,930. The Affordable Care Act eliminates the doughnut hole by 2020." 

In 2010, Medicare sent $250 rebate checks — totaling $846 million — to nearly 3.8 million seniors to try to counterbalance the gap. In the first two months of 2012, about 100,000 people have received $92.7 million in discounts — about $904 per person

Government costs for prescription medications through Medicare should decrease after seniors saved more than $2 billion in 2011 through discounts offered by the program. When Medicare recipients are able to take their medications, they are hospitalized less often for heart attacks, low blood sugar and asthma attacks thus reducing long term health care costs.

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Several recent articles about Medicare have shown a decrease in costs as benefits grew.

In the first full year of the new healthcare law, 3.6 million people in the government Medicare program saved $2.1 billion on prescription drugs in 2011. The savings are one of the first tangible benefits of the sweeping overhaul that the president signed in March 2010.  The Medicare prescription drug provision is designed to gradually phase out a gap in coverage for pharmaceuticals that was included in the Part D program when it was created under President George W. Bush. 

In 2010, beneficiaries who hit the so-called doughnut hole in coverage received a $250 rebate check under a provision of the new law.

In 2011, the law provided beneficiaries a 50% discount on covered brand-name drugs and a 7% discount on generics when they hit the doughnut hole.

That worked out to an average of $604 per beneficiary, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Those discounts are slated to rise to 75% for brand name and generic drugs by 2020, when the coverage gap will be eliminated altogether.

As the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives begin making crucial budgetary decisions for FY 2013, a new bipartisan national survey conducted for the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care by Public Opinion Strategies and Hart Research Associates finds that after hearing that Medicare funds are used to help pay for nursing home care, 82% of registered voters (RVs) oppose reducing Medicare funding for seniors’ nursing home care; 90% say funding for U.S. nursing home care should either "remain the same" or "increase"; 69% support the concept of phasing-in a 2011 Medicare regulation that reduced Medicare funding by 11.1% all at one time.
See articles at L.A.Times, The Wall Street Journal blog, and The Sacramento Bee.

USA Today reported on one of the biggest successes of the Affordable Care Act–more than 2.65 million Medicare recipients have saved more than $1.5 billion on their prescriptions this year, a $569-per-person average, while premiums have remained stable.  The Department of Health and Human Services announced in August that 2012 Medicare prescription drug plan premiums would average about $30 a month, compared to $30.76 in 2011.

A provision in the health care law put a 50% discount on prescription drugs in the "doughnut hole," the gap between traditional and catastrophic coverage in the drug benefit, also known as Part D.   Seniors who reach the doughnut hole in prescription benefits receive a 50% discount on name brand prescription drugs. Drug companies must provide the discount to participate in the prescription plan. Before the health care law took effect, Medicare patients had to pay full price for their prescriptions once they reached the gap in coverage.

Also, more than 24 million people, or about half of those with traditional Medicare, have gone in for a free annual physical or other screening exam since the rules changed this year because of the health care law.  Preventive care should lower the cost of future care.