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The Takeaway: Medicare Drug Discount Brought Big Savings; Last of the Pearl Harbor Survivors

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Donut Hole's Demise: The average Medicare patient saved $569 this year in prescription drug costs because of a drug discount program created by the 2010 health care overhaul,  the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced. In total, Medicare beneficiaries saved $1.5 billion on prescription drugs in 2011 under the new discount program, which was designed for those who had reached a coverage gap in Medicare's prescription drug plans known as the " donut hole." As of January 2011, drugmakers were required to provide a 50 percent discount on medicines to people in the donut hole, up to $4,550 a year, after which the government covers almost all drug costs.

See also: Medicare plans in 2012 >>

While many of the health care law's provisions don't take effect until 2014, Medicare patients have been able to benefit from some early improvements-including free preventative care, such as an annual wellness exam. CMS said about 24 million Medicare beneficiaries have taken advantage of this option so far in 2011.

Millions of Americans are receiving free preventive services and getting cheaper prescription drugs" because of the health law, said Marilyn Tavenner, acting CMS administrator, in a statement.

Still, "general confusion about the (health care) law and its offerings," said Rob Smith, vice president of sales and marketing for Medicare at insurer Independence Blue Cross, may mean Medicare patients aren't taking full advantage of provisions "that would seem to lend themselves to more positive/preventive health-care behavior." See our guide for more on the provisions and benefits that have come into effect since the Affordable Care Act passed, and what's still to come. 

'In Infamy' For How Much Longer? This Dec. 7, the 70th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941, will be the last one marked by the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association. The organization is disbanding after this year.

The fact that this moment was inevitable has made this no less a difficult year for the survivors, some of whom are concerned that the event that defined their lives will soon be just another chapter in a history book, with no one left to go to schools and Rotary Club luncheons to offer a firsthand testimony of that day

But Harry R. Kerr, director of the Southeast chapter, said there just weren't enough survivors left to keep the organization going.

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Illustration: University of Chicago

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