The White House kicked off a week of events marking the second anniversary of the health reform law by reminding seniors, that always-important voting block, just how much health care reform has helped them. Monday’s message: coverage of the “doughnut hole” in prescription drug plans saved 5 million seniors and disabled people $3.2 billion.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released data showing that through the first two months of 2012, about 103,000 seniors and people with disabilities saved $93 million in the donut hole.
“Without the health care law, more than 5.1 million seniors would have faced $3.2 billion in higher drug costs,” Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
The so-called doughnut hole is a gap in coverage for prescription drugs under what is called Medicare Part D. Part D pays for 75 percent of the cost of prescription drugs until total drug psending for the patient hits $2,800. Then the hole opens, and seniors must pay out of pocket until they have spent $4,550. Then Medicare pays, usually, about 95 percent of drug costs.
The health reform law sent all seniors who hit the prescription drug doughnut hole a one-time $250 check right away. In 2011 and 2012, seniors in the doughnut hole get a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs. Seniors in the traditional Medicare program have also gotten wellness check-ups and screenings for diseases like cancer and diabetes without paying anything out of pocket since 2011.
Under the law, the doughnut hole closes completely in 2020.
These senior-specific benefits may finally be paying off politically for Democrats. Seniors have been more skeptical of the health reform law when compared to younger people, but their support has increased over the past three months, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. In April of 2010, only 32 percent of seniors had a favorable view of the law while 55 percent had an unfavorable view. In March 2012, 44 percent had a favorable view and 42 percent had an unfavorable view.