Home Local News US health reform pays dividends in PR
Issued : Wednesday, February 8, 2012 04:37 PM
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US health reform pays dividends in PR

By CB Online Staff

According to data released this week by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the Affordable Care Act saved 85,000 Puerto Rico seniors and disabled individuals on Medicare a total of nearly $50 million in prescription drug costs in 2011, Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi said Wednesday.

This included savings on drugs to help patients with cancer, asthma, high cholesterol, depression, dementia, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure, among other health issues.

The Affordable Care Act inked by President Obama in March 2010 includes benefits to make Medicare prescription drug coverage, known as Medicare Part D, more affordable. When the Part D program was created, there was a gap in coverage, known as a “donut hole,” where most Medicare beneficiaries would pay 100 percent of their drug costs while still paying their premiums.

The Affordable Care Act is closing the donut hole over time, and has already saved seniors and people with disabilities over $3 billion on prescription drugs since the law was enacted.

In 2011, seniors and people with disabilities who reached the donut hole automatically received a 50 percent discount on covered brand-name drugs and a 7 percent discount on generic drugs. These discounts will continue to grow over time until the donut hole is closed. To receive the discount, no special action is required. Seniors simply purchase drugs at the pharmacy and receive the discount automatically.

In Puerto Rico, the savings have been substantial.

Data released by HHS shows that 85,981 Medicare beneficiaries saved $47.1 million on their prescription drugs in 2011 alone. This is an average savings of $549 per beneficiary.

The data also show that female Medicare beneficiaries, including those in Puerto Rico, have been particularly helped by the national health reform. Over 50,000 of the 85,000 seniors in Puerto Rico who benefited were female, and they saved over $28 million in their prescription drug costs in 2011, according to the resident commissioner’s office.

These savings will not end in 2011. In fact, HHS has projected that the average Medicare beneficiary will save approximately $4,200 from 2011 to 2021, while those with high prescription drug spending will save much more — nearly $16,000 over the same period.

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