Biden Medicare Costs Victory Largely Due to Alzheimer’s Drug Change

By Ahmed Aboulenein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday claimed victory for a drop in costs for tens of millions of Americans covered by the Medicare health program, though this is mainly due to a decision to cut coverage for an expensive, new drug. against Alzheimer’s disease. .

Biden next year highlighted a drop in premiums for Medicare Part B, which includes doctor and hospital visits and medications they administer, for the first time in more than a decade. He said the result will be savings of more than $60 per year per beneficiary.

“It will be a godsend for a lot of families,” Biden told health care attorneys at a White House Rose Garden event.

“It will take some time for some of this to start working, but it’s stuck,” he said.

The government’s Medicare plan covers approximately 35 million Americans age 65 and older or who are disabled. Separately, private insurers provide benefits through Medicare Advantage plans to more than 29 million people.

Biden portrayed the lower premiums as part of his and fellow Democrats’ efforts in Congress to reduce inflation and health care costs for older Americans, a pivotal voting bloc ahead of the upcoming midterm congressional elections in November.

The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which implement the Medicare health plan, said on Tuesday that most of the decline comes from Biogen Inc’s limited coverage of Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm for patients in clinical trials.

“The 2022 premium included a contingency margin to cover projected Part B spending on a new drug, Aduhelm. Lower spending on both Aduhelm and other Part B parts and services resulted in much larger reserves,” the statement said. desk.

The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees is $164.90 for 2023, down from $5.20 from 2022, CMS said. However, the agency had increased premiums by 14.5% for 2022, with expected costs for Aduhelm as one of the drivers.

Excluding the drug altogether would have resulted in premiums of $160.30 for 2022, CMS said earlier, meaning the 2023 premiums of 164.90 would have actually represented a 2.8% increase.

Aduhelm was approved over objections from outside Food and Drug Administration advisers, who did not believe data definitively showed the drug’s benefit to patients. The Medicare program limited its coverage, leading to severely limited use of the Biogen drug.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; additional reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Caroline Humer and Bill Berkrot)

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