Infographic on how the Affordable Care Act is saving people money. Photo credit White House

When Morgan Theriot got a letter in her mailbox from her health insurance last summer, she braced herself for a bill or a higher premium.

What the Maryland mother of two got instead was $267 back in her pocket.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 8.5 million Americans, such as Theriot, will receive half a billion dollars this summer in rebate checks from insurance companies that did not spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on health care quality and medical care.

“I’m self-employed so for many years I purchased insurance on the individual market and I got used to seeing my premiums go up and up and up and never knowing why,” Theriot said at a July 18 White House news conference. “It was a little like sending money into a black hole. I didn’t know where it was going.”

Theriot stood beside President Barack Obama who touted the savings and noted American families this summer can expect an average of $100 in savings.

Obama said Theriot told him it felt like someone was being held accountable for the money she was spending on health care.

“That’s one of the core principles of the Affordable Care Act, holding insurance companies and providers accountable so that we all get a better deal,” Obama said.

A total of 13 million rebates went out to Americans in 2012, money that could go toward retirement, college funds and mortgages, Obama said.

As competition drives prices down, consumers buying insurance on the individual market can expect to see even greater savings in their monthly premiums once new health insurance marketplaces go into effect. Enrollment begins Oct. 1.

Citing New York State as an example, Obama said the average premiums for state residents who buy insurance in a new marketplace will be at least 50 percent lower next year than they are today.

“This is just an example of how the Affordable Care Act is doing what it’s designed to do: deliver more choices, better benefits, a check on rising costs and higher quality health care,” Obama said.