WASHINGTON, March 21 (UPI) -- Since the Affordable Care Act was went into effect last Oct. 1, more than 5 million U.S. adults signed up for private health insurance, officials say.
Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement: "In addition to those signing up for private health insurance via the health insurance marketplace, more than 3 million young adults ages 18 to 26 got coverage through their parents' health plans and millions learned they were eligible for Medicaid coverage."
Sunday marks the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act and millions are enjoying high quality, affordable coverage that can't discriminate based on a pre-existing condition, or charge women more because of their gender, Sebelius said.
In addition, the Affordable Care Act helps bend the cost curve.
"We've held down national spending growth in healthcare to the slowest rate in a half century. Private health insurance premiums are growing at the slowest rate in a decade-and-a-half," Sebelius said.
Most healthcare plans have to cover recommended preventive services free of charge to patients. These include flu shots for children and adults, diabetes and blood pressure screenings, pap smears and mammograms for women, and well-child visits, just to name a few, Sebelius said.
"Today, 71 million Americans have new access to preventive services because of the law. Thanks to a similar requirement in Medicare, more than 37 million seniors and people with disabilities took advantage of a free preventive service in 2013," Sebelius said.
Since enactment of the Affordable Care Act, 7.9 million seniors and people with disabilities saved $9.9 billion on prescription drugs, or an average of $1,265 per beneficiary, Sebelius said.
Medicare spending growth per beneficiary remained low in 2012 and preventable hospital readmission's went down, resulting in 130,000 fewer patients returning to the hospital because of better hospital discharge programs.
Medicare Advantage premiums fell by nearly 10 percent, while enrollment increased by 38 percent to an all-time high of more than 15 million beneficiaries, Sebelius said.