By Lisa Zamosky
This year, nearly 20.5 million people with Medicare coverage took advantage of the free preventive services available to them as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
That was the announcement made last week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
Earlier this year, Medicare began covering the full cost of certain preventive medical services, such as annual wellness visits, cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings, as well as cancer screenings including mammography and colonoscopies. Seniors no longer pay annual deductibles, co-pays, or coinsurance for these services.
Preparing for Annual Enrollment
As you prepare for the Medicare annual open enrollment period starting on October 15 and running through December 7 (you are preparing, right?), it’s important to keep free preventative benefits in mind and to make sure you’re using them to the fullest.
Before the Affordable Care Act removed all cost-sharing for many types of preventive care at the start of 2011, many seniors with Medicare coverage paid as much as 20% in out-of-pocket costs for preventive services. And historically, annual physical exams were not paid for at all. Being able to now access these services free of charge represents a significant cost savings for Medicare beneficiaries and greater access to preventive services for people who might have otherwise skipped them because of the cost.
You can review a full list of the free preventive services available to you at Healthcare.gov. If you’ve received your 2012 Medicare handbook, the list can be found in there as well.
The same CMS report found that between January and August of this year, nearly 1.8 million people on Medicare who hit the “donut hole” or the gap in Part D drug coverage received a 50% discount on brand-name drugs. That represented an average savings of $530 per person.
This is good news for Medicare beneficiaries and important to consider as we enter into the annual enrollment season. Starting in 2012, the discount for brand-name drugs will remain at 50%, but discounts for generic medications for anyone falling into the donut hole will double, jumping from 7% to 14%. By 2020, the government intends to make the gap in prescription drug coverage a thing of the past, closing the donut hole completely.
To compare Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug programs in your area visit the Medicare Plan Finder.
Chime in: Have you seen any savings this year in the form of free preventive care or discounted drug costs?
HHS.gov: “More people using free preventive benefits provided by Affordable Care Act.”
Medicare 2012 Handbook.