04/29/2012 12:16 pm ET Updated Jun 29, 2012

The Affordable Care Act - Stronger Benefits to Seniors, Billions in Savings This Year

Two years ago, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act. The President's health care law gives hard working, middle-class families security, makes Medicare stronger, and puts more money back in seniors' pockets.

Prior to 2011, people on Medicare faced paying for preventive benefits like cancer screenings and cholesterol checks out of their own pockets. Now, these benefits are offered free of charge to beneficiaries.

Over time, the health reform law also closes the gap in prescription drug coverage, known as the "donut hole." This helps seniors like Helen Rayon: "I am a grandmother who is trying to assist a grandson with his education. I take seven different medications. Getting the donut hole closed, that gives me a little more money in my pocket."

In 2010, those who hit the donut hole received a $250 rebate - with almost 4 million seniors and people with disabilities receiving a collective $1 billion. In 2011, people on Medicare automatically received a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs in the donut hole. Over 3.6 million beneficiaries received more than $2.1 billion in savings - averaging $604 per person last year.

And today, we have more good news. Even more seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have benefited from these important measures:

  • In 2010 and 2011, over 5.1 million people on Medicare saved over3.4 billion on prescription drugs in the donut hole. In the first three months of 2012 alone, more than 220,000 people have saved184.5 million - an average of 837 a person so far this year.
  • In the first three months of 2012, 8.9 million beneficiaries on traditional Medicare received at least one free preventive service. This includes over 560,000 who have taken advantage of the Annual Wellness Visit - a new benefit that allows patients to meet with their doctors once a year to develop and update a personalized prevention plan. In 2011, over 32.5 million beneficiaries in traditional Medicare received one or more preventive benefit free of charge.

These new benefits will strengthen over time. In the coming years, the automatic discount on drugs in the donut hole will expand, and by 2020 the donut hole will be closed completely. And Medicare is growing stronger in other ways as well. Doctors and hospitals are beginning to receive new incentives to provide better care to patients, reducing infections that patients receive in the hospital, improving patient safety and lowering costs. The new law also invests more resources in fighting Medicare fraud, to protect the trust fund, and keep Medicare secure for longer.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, seniors and people with disabilities are enjoying a Medicare program that is stronger and working better for Helen, and others all across the country.

For more by Sec. Kathleen Sebelius, click here.

For more on health care, click here.