Scioto County seniors see Medicare savings

Chris Dunham, PDT Sports Writer

March 6, 2013

Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

More than 1,200 seniors in Scioto County have saved a total of $1 million, thanks to the donut hole in Medicare being partially closed, according to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

Brown held a news conference outlining his three-point plan to reduce the deficit by lowering prescription drug costs for consumers and taxpayers. Brown, who chairs the Finance Subcommittee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy, also released a county-by-county report showing how reforms made through the health law have already saved nearly 179,000 Ohio seniors a combined $138.5 million on their prescription drug costs in 2012, with the average beneficiary saving $774. Since 2010, Ohio seniors have saved a combined $278,731,176.

In Scioto County 1,257 seniors saved $1,039,378.44 on a total of 9,660 prescriptions. In Lawrence County, 1,043 seniors saved $836,014.81 on 7,005 prescriptions. In Adams County, 480 seniors saved a total of $400,185 on 3,517 prescriptions. In Jackson County, 508 seniors saved $460,211.76 on 3,908 prescriptions. In Pike County, 361 seniors saw savings of $289,431.36 on 2,401 prescriptions.

“There is no reason why we can’t make prescription drugs more affordable for every Ohioan and reduce Federal spending at the same time,” Brown said. “I will continue to fight for common sense solutions to lower the national deficit while reducing consumer costs and increasing access to high quality prescription drugs.”

Brown’s three-point plan to reduce the deficit by lowering prescription drug costs for consumers and taxpayers includes:

  • Allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate volume discounts on prescription drugs for Medicare, saving the Federal government $240 billion over 10 years.
  • Allowing the safe re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada and Australia which would reduce federal direct spending by $5.4 billion.
  • Reducing the exclusivity period for biologic drugs could save consumers and the American health care system more than $3.5 billion over the next decade. Unlike chemical drugs, biologic drugs refer to a category of drug derived from a living organism – which treat conditions like breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis – and are often significantly more expensive.

Brown is also a cosponsor of the Prescription Drug and Health Improvement Act which he says could save up to $24 billion annually. In 2011, Medicare spent $67 billion subsidizing prescription drugs as a part of the Part D program. He says the legislation would allow Medicare to adopt negotiating tactics used by other federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs. A recent study found that the agency was able to get the 10 most prescribed drugs at costs nearly 50 percent less than Medicare.

Also participating in the news conference was Marlette Louisin, a senior from Akron who discussed her family’s prescription drug costs and the money she has saved by having her donut hole partially closed thanks to the health law.

“I thank Senator Brown for continuing his efforts to provide me and my family high-quality and affordable prescription drugs,” Louisin said. “This new report is an example of the work Senator Brown is doing in Congress on behalf of all Ohioans. Because of health reform my donut hole has closed by half and will be fully closed by 2020.”

Brown released a county-by-county report from CMS which outlined savings in drug costs for Americans who enter the drug coverage gap in private Medicare Part D coverage, also known as the “donut hole.” Until the passage of the health law, Brown said seniors who entered the donut hole by exceeding the prescription drug coverage limit were left responsible for paying 100 percent of their drug costs until catastrophic coverage kicks in.

Since the Coverage Gap Discount Program began on Jan. 1, 2011 as a part of the ACA, CMS has been analyzing data to understand the total number of beneficiaries receiving a reduction in out of pocket drug costs in each state and for how much.

Brown said he held several events in 2011 educating seniors about new prescription drug benefits available to them through the health care reform law. In 2011, the law provided Medicare beneficiaries with a 50 percent discount on brand-name prescription drugs and biologics if they enter the donut hole. Discounts increase every year until 2020, when the donut hole will be completely closed and beneficiaries will only be responsible for the plan’s co-payment or co-insurance payment rather than the full 100 percent that they were paying prior to 2011.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com.