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No Increase in Medicare Drug Premiums in 2012
Date:8/5/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- In 2012, the average Medicare premium seniors pay for their prescription drugs will actually drop slightly, U.S. officials announced Thursday.

Overall, the average premium cost of the Medicare Part D prescription drug plan in 2012 will be about $30, a modest decline from $30.76 paid out on average in 2011, representatives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said during an afternoon press conference.

How is the plan able to keep premiums low? According to officials, Medicare's popular drug benefits program is benefiting from competition between private insurance plans and the growing use of cheaper generic medicines. And they say that situation might even get rosier in the future, as more blockbuster drugs are set to go generic over the next couple years.

In addition, so far this year almost 900,000 Medicare patients who dropped into the prescription drug donut hole -- where costs aren't covered -- got a 50 percent discount on their drugs to help ease that financial hardship, HHS officials said.

Agency Secretary Kathleen Sebelius credited the Obama Administration's health care reform efforts with much of the cost savings to seniors.

"The Affordable Care Act is strengthening a very critical Medicare program and helping million of seniors and Americans with disabilities get the care they need," she said. "Thanks to the new discounts, beneficiaries are saving hundreds of millions of dollars in the Medicare Part D coverage gap, known as the donut hole, at the same time as Part D premiums are falling," she said.

Overall, out-of-pocket savings on drugs for Medicare patients rose to $461 million through June 2011, health officials said. That's an increase of $260 million through May 2011, meaning that Medicare patients in the donut hole saved more than $200 million in June alone.

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