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Seniors Saving Big on Rx Drugs and Preventive Services Under Affordable Care Act

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According to figures released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this week, more than 25 million people covered by traditional Medicare received at least one preventive service at no cost between January and November of this year, because of the Affordable Care Act. This number is higher than those who saved in 2012.

The news follows last month's announcement that the health care law saved seniors $8.9 billion on their prescription drugs since the law's enactment. Previously, as many as one in four seniors went without a prescription every year because they couldn't afford it. The Affordable Care Act provides relief for people in the Medicare prescription drug "doughnut hole" -- the ones with the highest prescription drug costs. In 2010, about four million people in the "doughnut hole" received a $250 check to help with their costs. In 2011, 3.6 million people with Medicare received a 50 percent discount worth a total of $2.1 billion, or an average of $604 per person, on their brand name prescription drugs when they hit the donut hole. Seniors will see additional savings on covered brand-name and generic drugs while in the coverage gap until the gap is closed in 2020.

Before the new health care law was implemented, Medicare recipients had to pay part of the cost for many preventive health services. These out-of-pocket costs made it difficult for seniors and others to get important preventive care they needed. For instance, a person with Medicare could pay as much as $160 in cost-sharing for a colorectal cancer screening . Now, this important screening and many others are covered at no cost, in other words no deductible or co-pay, to recipients. This is just one way the Affordable Care Act removes barriers to affordable health care and works to identify and treat problems early.

Prevention and early detection are very important for our seniors. Some of the deductibles and co-pays do not sound like a lot of money to some, but they did keep mammograms, colonoscopies and other routine tests out of reach for too many seniors on fixed incomes.

The Affordable Care Act makes Medicare stronger and improves the well-being of millions of beneficiaries who can take advantage of preventive services and wellness visits. The latest state-by-state data on this can be found here.

Americans, including seniors, across the country are becoming more and more familiar with the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. More and more are sharing their stories with me. Certainly, Medicare beneficiaries are benefiting, but so are their loved ones.

Dennis Hall, from Apache Junction, Arizona told me

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act I will finally be able to get health insurance for my wife. My wife has preexisting conditions of high blood pressure and is pre-diabetic. After I retired from the Arizona State Prison system, the state would have taken my entire pension to retain our state health care plan. Private insurance companies would not cover my wife due to her preexisting conditions. Courtesy of the Affordable Health Care law I will now be able to get health insurance for my wife for $349 a month with the Bronze plan and probably for less.

Texas Alliance activist Morris Fried shared with members of Congress this week his gratitude that his daughter was able, thanks to early ACA provisions, to remain on his health insurance plan until she turns 26 years old next April. He said,

My daughter will turn twenty-six in April and therefore the full ACA sign-up comes just in time to enable her to obtain coverage on her own, starting then, with no regard to any preexisting conditions. She signed up with no problems and we are thankful for this program.

From those already on Medicare to those who look forward to it but need affordable healthcare in the meantime, the Affordable Care Act is a boon.