KHN reports that 48,000 Medicare beneficiaries used the new law's discount on brand-name drugs during the first two months of 2011. KHS cited the Department of Health and Human Services in noting these individuals saved a combined $38 million, or $800 on average, on the drugs.

HHS figures released also pointed out that 11,000 Medicare enrollees who reached the program's Part D prescription drug benefit's annual out-of-pocket maximum in 2011 saved $1,175, on average, because of the health reform law. HHS officials anticipate the number of Medicare beneficiaries who buy discounted drugs to increase as the year goes on.

Individuals opting for Medicare Part D drug insurance program pay a portion of prescription costs to $2,840 (including deductibles). That's when they hit the coverage gap known as the doughnut hole, at which point they must pay all drug costs until they have spent a total of $4,550 out-of-pocket for the year.

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