When Medicare was created nearly 50 years ago, it served as a promise to seniors and people with disabilities that illness wouldn't take away their savings or their home and that they would be able to get health care when they needed it.
Over the past few decades, Medicare has made good on that promise. Today, 48 million Americans rely on the program. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Medicare is stronger than ever.
Before the law passed, there were gaps in Medicare coverage.
The rising cost of prescription drugs forced many seniors into the Medicare Part D donut hole where they were responsible for the full cost of expensive, but sometimes life-saving drugs. As a result, nearly one in four seniors reported skipping doses, cutting pills in half or not filling a prescription, simply due to cost.
Many seniors also found critical and potentially life-saving preventive services, like mammograms, out of reach due to high co-pays and deductible.
Today, thanks to the health care law, we're closing these longstanding gaps in care.
Now, when seniors enter the donut hole they are receiving a discount on their covered, name brand drugs. Since 2010, thanks to this benefit, 5.1 million Medicare beneficiaries saved an average of $635 each on prescription drugs. This is real money back in the pockets of seniors, and more importantly it's allowing seniors to fill prescriptions they otherwise might have skipped. And the savings will continue to grow each year until the donut hole is closed in 2020.
At the same time the law has made sure seniors can get recommended preventive services with no co-pay or deductibles. Already this year, nearly 14.3 million beneficiaries have gotten free preventive tests and screenings thanks to this benefit. One of those services is an annual wellness visit, which is a rare chance to sit down with your doctor and talk about any health concerns you might have.
And the law doesn't stop there. It also makes it easier for doctors to work together to deliver the kind of high quality, coordinated care patients get in the country's leading health systems.
Even with these new benefits, premiums in the Medicare program have fallen or remain lower than projected. For example, we saw premiums in Medicare Advantage fall an average of seven percent between 2011 and 2012, while enrollment went up about ten percent. This is partly because of the historic waste and fraud fighting efforts that you just heard about from Cecilia.
When you add all the savings in the law up, the average Medicare beneficiary will save $4200 over the next nine years. And those seniors with high drug costs will see even greater benefits, with some expected to save close to $16,000.
And unlike some recent proposals the Affordable Care Act will maintain all the guaranteed Medicare benefits that seniors count on today.
What all of this means is that Medicare is now going to be stronger than ever. Seniors will have better benefits, lower prescription costs and more affordable preventive care. And their children and grandchildren will have a stronger Medicare in the future.