One more reason to preserve the Affordable Care Act, according to the Obama administration: It has helped millions of Medicare beneficiaries save money on prescription drugs and access preventive care.
Since the ACA was enacted, more than 11.8 million Medicare beneficiaries have received discounts on prescription drugs totaling $26.8 billion, or an average of $2,272 per beneficiary, according to newly released data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In 2016, the average discount per beneficiary was $1,149, up from $1,054 in 2015.
Those savings were possible in part because of the ACA’s narrowing of the prescription drug “donut hole”—or the gap before catastrophic coverage for prescriptions takes effect, and during which beneficiaries have to pay the full cost of their prescriptions out of pocket after hitting their initial coverage limit.
The ACA made certain preventive services available to Medicare beneficiaries with no cost-sharing, CMS pointed out. Because of these protections, more than 10.3 million Medicare beneficiaries took advantage of an annual wellness visit in 2016, and an estimated 40.1 million took advantage of at least one preventive service with no copays or deductibles, CMS said.
"While the Affordable Care Act has expanded coverage to 20 million Americans, the law is also a game changer for millions of older Americans,” CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said in the agency’s announcement.
The new data is just the latest salvo in the Obama administration’s campaign to tout the ACA’s accomplishments and warn about the dangers of repealing the law. Democrats have also sounded the alarm about Republicans’ Medicare reform ideas, which include moving the program to a premium-support model.
Perhaps sensing the political risk involved, some GOP lawmakers have also expressed hesitancy.
But Republicans are marching forward with an ACA repeal, as a fast-track bill that would pave the way for dismantling major parts of the law cleared the House on Friday.