Biden administration won’t lower seniors’ Medicare premiums this year

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Friday said it will not lower Medicare premiums for adults 65 and over this year, even though their costs spiked based on inflated financial projections for the beleaguered Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra in January publicly announced he was ordering Medicare to consider dropping older adults’ premiums in the middle of this year, which would have been an unprecedented move. But the administration decided against a change due to “legal and operational hurdles,” the department said Friday afternoon.

The overpayments will instead be factored into next year’s premiums.

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“After receiving [Medicare’s] report reevaluating the 2022 Medicare Part B premiums, we have determined that we can put cost-savings directly back into the pockets of people enrolled in Medicare in 2023,” said Becerra. “We had hoped to achieve this sooner, but [Medicare] explains that the options to accomplish this would not be feasible.”

In the months since premiums for the Medicare program were set in November — featuring the highest-ever price increase for older adults — it has become clear that Biogen’s Alzheimer’s treatment Aduhelm won’t cost the Medicare program nearly as much as it could have. Biogen slashed the drug’s price in half in December following controversy over the drug’s approval, and Medicare also added historic, strict rules on who could receive the drug in April.

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Medicare officials calculated that if the current situation around Aduhelm had been factored into at the beginning of the year, premiums would have increased 8% instead of the actual increase of 14.5%.

The calculation means that older adults paying average premiums for outpatient services will pay roughly an extra $116 this year due to the impacts of a single, expensive drug.

It’s possible seniors won’t see a decrease in premiums next year, but instead premiums may hold steady or increase at a slower rate than they otherwise would have, Medicare officials said.



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