Seniors in Maryland have saved $56.5 million on prescription drug costs because of a provision under health care reform that has eased the Medicare donut hole, new government data has found.

The savings were achieved with rebates and discounts to ease the burden of the donut hole, when patients reach certain limits that require them to pay 100 percent of their prescription drug costs.

The $56.5 million in savings has occurred since health reform was adopted, according to The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In the first half of this  year 15,784 seniors with Medicare in Maryland saved $10.3 million. 

The savings started in 2010 when people who hit the donut hole received a one-time rebate of $250. The following year seniors on Medicare received a 50 percent discount on covered brand name drugs and a 7 percent discount on generic drugs in the donut hole.  This year, Medicare coverage for generic drugs in the coverage gap has risen to 14 percent. 

 Savings will increase over time until 2020, when the coverage gap will be closed.