Feds: Health reform law helps Mainers save $13 million

Posted Sept. 24, 2012, at 1:33 p.m.

Federal officials say Maine seniors and people with disabilities have saved $13.1 million on prescription drugs since President Obama’s health reform law was enacted in 2010.

The health care law has allowed Mainers in the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the “doughnut hole” to save an average of $522 during the first eight months of this year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The health reform law, fiercely opposed by Republicans, calls for the doughnut hole to be closed by 2020. The law began phasing out the coverage gap in 2010, giving Medicare beneficiaries who hit the doughnut hole a $250 rebate. Last year, beneficiaries received discounts on generic drugs and some brand name medications.

The Affordable Care Act improves Medicare coverage for prescription drugs and provides seniors with preventive care at no cost. U.S. HHS touted a new report this week that found the law will save the average person with traditional Medicare coverage $5,000 from 2010 to 2022. People on Medicare who have high prescription medication costs will save more, around $18,000, over that period.

“I am pleased that the health care law is helping so many seniors save money on their prescription drug costs,” U.S. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stated in a recent press release. “A $5,000 savings will go a long way for many beneficiaries on fixed incomes and tight budgets.”

Nationally, more than 5.5 million people have saved nearly $4.5 billion on prescription drugs since the law was enacted, according to U.S. HHS.

The reform law also made a number of preventive health services, such as yearly wellness checks and colorectal cancer screenings, free to seniors without co-pays or deductibles. U.S. HHS said in February that the law provided more than 400,000 Maine residents with preventive care last year.

The Affordable Care Act has been vehemently opposed by Republicans, becoming a centerpiece issue in this year’s presidential campaign. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal the law while keeping of its more popular provisions, saying the law harms businesses and represents a government takeover of health care.

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