Medicare Part B Premium Hike Could Be Reduced as Government Reassesses Alzheimer’s Drug

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Seniors worried about the steep hike in Medicare Part B premiums scheduled for 2022 might have some good news: There’s a chance the planned 14.5% increase could be reduced to something cheaper.

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On Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra directed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reassess this year’s standard premium after the price of a leading Alzheimer’s drug was slashed.

That drug is Aduhelm, made by Biogen. On Jan. 1, Biogen cut the wholesale acquisition cost of Aduhelm by 50%, according to the Healthcare Finance website. For a patient of average weight, the annual cost of the maintenance dose of 10 mg/kg is now $28,200 — down from $56,000 previously.

Because the scheduled 14.5% Medicare Part B increase was based in part on the high cost of Aduhelm, federal officials will now do a new cost analysis.

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“Today I’m instructing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reassess the recommendation for the 2022 Medicare Part B premium, given the dramatic price change of the Alzheimer’s drug, Aduhelm,” Becerra said in a statement. “With the 50% price drop of Aduhelm on January 1, there is a compelling basis for CMS to reexamine the previous recommendation.” 

The Medicare Part B premium is supposed to rise to $170.10 in 2022 from $148.50 last year. As previously reported by GOBankingRates, that increase, announced in November 2021, was more than double the original estimate.

Senior advocacy groups criticized the stiff increase, partly because spiraling inflation has raised the cost of pretty much everything. Not even this year’s 5.9% hike in monthly Social Security payments will do much to offset inflation, which has been running at 6% and higher.

See: Social Security COLA — Seniors Will Receive the Highest Increase in Decades, But It’s No Match For 6.2% Inflation Surge
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But seniors might get a break if the Medicare Part B premium increase is eased. As CNBC noted, the CMS had to account for the possibility of covering Aduhelm in its 2022 Part B cost calculation. Now that the price of Aduhelm has been cut in half, the agency could take the unusual step of retroactively changing the premium.

“It would be unprecedented, but in this situation it may not be unwarranted,” Juliette Cubanski, deputy director of the program on Medicare policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told CNBC. “If it turns out that spending on this drug is going to be significantly less than what Medicare’s actuaries expected … it would be reasonable to make an adjustment to the Part B premium.”

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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