Report: Obamacare saved Medicare patients billions

A new federal report indicates the Affordable Care Act has saved Medicare beneficiaries millions of dollars in South Carolina on prescription drug costs.

The federal government says Obamacare helped Medicare beneficiaries in South Carolina save some $95 million last year on their prescription drugs.

Part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act has gradually closed the so-called Medicare Part D “prescription drug donut hole,” which previously made medicine too expensive for some patients covered by the entitlement program. The “hole” will not completely close until 2020.

Across the country, 9.4 million Medicare beneficiaries — seniors and people with disabilities — saved more than $15 billion on prescription drugs in the past five years, an average savings of almost $1,600 per person, according to the new federal report.

“These savings will only increase over time as we close the Medicare coverage gap known as the donut hole,” said U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, in a prepared statement.

In other Affordable Care Act news, a new Gallup poll estimates the uninsured rate in South Carolina dropped by 3.3 percent between 2013 and 2014. Last year, 15.4 percent of the state was uninsured, compared with 18.7 percent in 2013. The decline may be largely explained because residents were able to buy affordable insurance policies through the federal marketplace for the first time in late 2013.

The poll shows states that have embraced the federal law, by expanding Medicaid eligibility and building their own state-based insurance marketplaces, noticed even larger decreases in the percentage of uninsured residents.

On average, the uninsured rate in those states dropped by 4.8 percent. In states that did not expand Medicaid eligibility and did not create a state-based exchange, or did only one or the other, the uninsured rate dropped by an average 2.7 percent.

South Carolina did not expand Medicaid or create a state-based exchange. Neither are mandatory under the federal law.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.