On the eve of the 48th anniversary of the signing of Medicare and Medicaid into law, new information released today by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) claims to show a stronger Medicare program because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

According to HHS, some 6.6 million people with Medicare have saved more than $7 billion on prescription drugs as a result of ACA. These savings average $1,061 per beneficiary in drug costs while that beneficiary is in the “donut hole” coverage gap that the new law closes over time.

In addition, an HHS news release said 16.5 million people with traditional Medicare took advantage of at least one free preventive service in the first six months of 2013.

HHS is also touting what it calls "historically low levels of growth in Medicare spending." From 2010 to 2012, HHS says, Medicare spending per beneficiary grew at 1.7 percent annually, more slowly than the average rate of growth in the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and substantially more slowly than the per capita rate of growth in the economy.

“Medicare is much stronger as a result of the health care law,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Spending has slowed to historic levels, as seniors are enjoying enhanced benefits and greater savings on drugs.”

People with Medicare in the donut hole now receive discounts and some cost coverage when they purchase prescription drugs at a pharmacy or order them through the mail, until they reach the catastrophic coverage phase, according to the deparment's announcement. The Affordable Care Act awarded those who reached the donut hole in 2010 a one-time $250 check, then began phasing in discounts and coverage for brand-name and generic prescription drugs beginning in 2011. The law will provide additional savings each year until the coverage gap is closed in 2020.