U.S. President Joe Biden will claim victory Tuesday for a drop in costs for tens of millions of Americans covered by the Medicare health program — though it is primarily due to a decision to severely limit coverage of an expensive, new Alzheimer's drug.
The White House said Biden would highlight a drop in premiums next year for the first time in over a decade for Medicare Part B, which among other things covers doctor and hospital visits as well as drugs they administer. He is expected to note that the result will be a saving of over $60 a year per beneficiary in a Rose Garden event.
The government Medicare plan covers some 35 million Americans aged 65 and older or who are disabled. Separately, private insurers provide benefits through Medicare Advantage plans to over 29 million people.
Biden will paint the lower premiums as part of his efforts and those of fellow Democrats in Congress to reduce inflation and healthcare costs for older Americans, a crucial voting bloc ahead of upcoming midterm Congressional elections in November.
The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which runs the Medicare health plan, said on Tuesday the bulk of the drop comes from its limiting coverage of Biogen Inc's Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm to patients in clinical trials.
"The 2022 premium included a contingency margin to cover projected Part B spending for a new drug, Aduhelm. Lower-than-projected spending on both Aduhelm and other Part B items and services resulted in much larger reserves," the agency said.
The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $164.90 for 2023, down by $5.20 from 2022, CMS said. The agency had raised 2022 premiums by 14.5%, however, with projected 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% rise.
Aduhelm was approved over the objections of the Food and Drug Administration's outside advisers, who did not believe data definitively proved the drug's benefit to patients. The Medicare program restricted its coverage, which has led to severely limited use of the Biogen drug.
Biden also will tout the health savings from the Inflation Reduction Act, which he recently signed, the White House said.
© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.