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Health Care Reform Saved Medicare Recipients $3.7 Billion On Prescription Drugs

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File photo: prescription drugs. More than 5.2 million people on Medicare have saved a total of $3.7 billion on prescription drugs since health care reform was signed into law in 2010, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
File photo: prescription drugs. More than 5.2 million people on Medicare have saved a total of $3.7 billion on prescription drugs since health care reform was signed into law in 2010, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

If the Supreme Court overturns President Obama's health care reform law on Thursday, seniors will likely have to spend billions more on prescription drugs.

Findings released on Monday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services showed more than 5.2 million seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have saved a total of $3.7 billion on prescription drugs since parts of the Affordable Care Act took effect in 2010.

Much of those savings come from health care reform's attempt to resolve the so-called "doughnut hole" problem of Medicare's prescription drug coverage. Before the law went into effect, many Medicare recipients faced a coverage gap that forced them to pay the full price of prescription drugs once they hit a set limit on prescription drug spending, but had not yet reached the threshold required to receive catastrophic care coverage.

Now, Medicare recipients see savings applied automatically when they hit the "doughnut hole."

The government gave $250 checks to 3.8 million people that hit the doughnut hole in 2010, and then gave Medicare recipients another $2.8 million in discounts in 2011 and the first five months of 2012, according to CMS. The "doughnut hole" is on track to be fully closed by 2020 thanks to health care reform, the agency said.

Prescriptions receiving the discounts include cancer drugs, triglyceride and cholesterol lowering drugs, blood sugar lowering drugs, asthma drugs, autoimmune disease anti-inflammatory drugs, psychiatric drugs and anti-dementia drugs, according to CMS.

But many of those prescription drugs would become unaffordable for Medicare recipients if the Supreme Court overturns health care reform. Brenda and Wister Adrine, a Cleveland couple receiving Medicare, told HuffPost's Jeffrey Young last week that they will have to choose between buying groceries and prescription drugs if they no longer can receive discounts made available by the law.

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