Medicare drug costs shrinking under ObamaCare

ObamaCare has led to substantial savings in prescription drug costs and a strong increase in the use of preventive services, administration officials announced Tuesday. 

“Our parents and grandparents on Medicare saved more than $15 billion on prescription drugs since President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in 2010,” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said.

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Those savings amount to nearly $1,600 per person enrolled in Medicare — an increase from about $1,400 in average savings last year.

Burwell delivered the announcement — which she joked came from the agency’s “good news department” — in front of thousands of doctors at the annual D.C. meeting of the American Medical Association.

Tackling prescription drug costs has been a major goal of the Obama administration, pledging to close the coverage gap, known as the “doughnut hole,” by 2020.

Because Medicare drug plans have a limit on how much they pay for medication, beneficiaries are forced to pay for their treatments out of pocket before their catastrophic coverage kicks in.

Under ObamaCare, recipients in the “doughnut hole” receive a rebate or discount from the government to help them save on prescription drug costs until the gap can ultimately be closed.

Burwell also highlighted the growing use of preventive healthcare coverage under ObamaCare — another top issue for the administration. Many provider groups only signed onto healthcare reform with the promise that preventive care would be a central tenet.

Nearly 40 million people have used at least one of Medicare’s free preventive services in the last year alone, the secretary said. Nearly 5 million enrollees received the annual wellness exam.

The latest news helps to bolster the administration’s “ObamaCare is working” campaign, which has been touted across all areas of government. That argument has become more crucial with the Supreme Court slated to hear the latest healthcare law challenge, King v. Burwell, next week.

Burwell also made a plea to the roomful of doctors to assist with the next step of ObamaCare rollout — ensuring that the millions of new healthcare customers understand how to use their new coverage.

“Now that millions of Americans have new coverage — many for the first time — we all need to step up our game to help them understand how best to use it,” she said.

“Talk with your patients. Train your staff to do the same. Put materials in your waiting rooms,” she urged.

Doctors groups, such as the American Medical Association, have been key administration partners in the implementation of ObamaCare. But the two sides have not entirely agreed on the creation and rollout of ObamaCare, Burwell acknowledged Tuesday.

She specifically pointed to the unpopular rules on electronic health records, which doctors have lamented as costly and bureaucratic. She also pointed to the president’s support of for a permanent Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which decides the reimbursement rate for Medicare doctors.

“Disagreements in some areas should not prevent us from moving forward on others,” she said. “If we share common interests and common dreams, we ought to be able to find common ground.”