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What’s Changing in Medicare? Listen to Our Tele-Town Hall

En español | People on Medicare prescription drug plans should already be reaping benefits of last summer’s sweeping legislation to reduce drug prices, with additional savings to come in the next few years, the head of Medicare told AARP tele-town hall listeners on Thursday. 

“It was really important to deliver [cost savings] right away because we know how much not only people with Medicare, but their families, their communities who support them, have been struggling with these high costs,” said Meena Seshamani, M.D., director of the Center for Medicare, during the live Q&A event Thursday afternoon.

AARP has for years led the charge to lower drug prices, ramping up pressure on lawmakers last summer as the bill advanced through Congress.

Medicare changes under the new law include: 

  • No cost for recommended vaccines, including shots for shingles and whooping cough.

  • A $35-a-month out-of-pocket cap on insulin (except for pump insulin, which will be capped starting July 1).

  • A cap on out-of-pocket costs when recipients reach what Medicare calls the catastrophic coverage phase of their prescription drug plan benefits (starting in 2024).

Seshamani said Medicare will announce in September the first 10 medicines that will have their prices negotiated between the federal government and big drug companies, another change we fought for in the law. 

Seshamani also answered questions about how Medicare benefits will be impacted in May, when the federal government ends the public health emergency that’s been in place since the start of the pandemic. Although no-cost COVID-19 vaccines will still be available, some other COVID-related benefits will expire.

For example, Medicare recipients had been eligible for eight free COVID-19 home tests per month under the health emergency, but those benefits will no longer be available when the emergency ends. However, some free home tests will still be available through the U.S. postal service, Seshamani said. AARP has pushed for Medicare to continue to cover the tests. 

Listen to a recording of the tele-town hall, and read more about Medicare and our fight for lower drug costs.

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