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October 7, 2011 Published in Health & Fitness

More People using Free Preventive Benefits Provided By Affordable Care Act

Number of people who received 50 percent discount on prescription drugs also rises

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported today that nearly 20.5 million people with Medicare reviewed their health status at a free Annual Wellness Visit or received other preventive services with no deductible or cost sharing this year, including 585,117 people in Virginia.  In addition, nearly 1.8 million people with Medicare have received discounts on brand-name drugs in the Medicare Part D coverage gap, also known as the "donut hole," between January and August of this year, including 40,670 people in Virginia.  The total value of discounts to people with Medicare in the donut hole in Virginia is $21,220,977 through August of this year, with an average savings of $522 per person.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more people with Medicare are getting preventive services like mammograms for free,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “The new health care law is also making prescription drugs more affordable for millions of seniors and people with disabilities.”

Some of the free preventive services available to people with Medicare include:

·         Mammograms and cervical cancer screenings

·         Annual Wellness Visit

·         Cholesterol and other cardiovascular screenings

·         Colorectal and prostate cancer screenings

“October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month – a great time for women with Medicare to schedule a free Annual Wellness Visit with their doctors.  At that visit they can talk about their personal risk for breast cancer, if they should have a mammogram or how often to have one,” said Dr. Berwick.  “If you and your doctor decide that a mammogram is in order, Medicare will cover that preventive screening annually, free of charge.  Already more than 4 million women have taken advantage of that benefit this year, including 121,400 women in Virginia.”

The rising numbers of people who are taking advantage of preventive benefits and prescription drug discounts comes as people with Medicare are beginning to review their plan options for next year.  The popular web-based Medicare Plan Finder is now available to help beneficiaries, their families, other caregivers, and senior program advocates look at all local drug and health plan options that are available for the 2012 benefit year.

The annual enrollment period begins earlier this year than last year, on Oct. 15th, and runs through Dec. 7th.  People with Medicare will have seven weeks to review Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug coverage benefits and plan options, and choose the option that best meets their unique needs or keep the plan they have today.  The earlier open enrollment period also ensures that Medicare has enough time to process plan choices so that coverage can begin without interruption on Jan. 1st, 2012.

Every person with a Medicare Advantage or a Part D drug plan will also see better value in those plans for the second year in a row.  Average Part D drug plan premiums will remain virtually unchanged in 2012.  In Virginia, 93.8 percent of people have access to a plan with a lower premium than they paid in 2011.  Those in the Part D coverage gap, or donut hole, will continue to be able to get discounts on covered brand name drugs in the donut hole. People with Medicare will get deeper discounts in the years ahead until the gap is closed in 2020.  On average, Medicare Advantage premiums will be 4 percent lower in 2012 than in 2011, and plans project enrollment to increase by 10 percent.  In Virginia, 100 percent of people with Medicare have access to a Medicare Advantage plan that doesn’t charge a premium.  All beneficiaries will have access to Medicare-covered preventive services with zero cost-sharing, including the Annual Wellness Visit, bone-mass measurement, colon cancer screenings, and diabetes screenings, as well as influenza and pneumococcal vaccines, to name a few.

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