Medicare’s Record Part B Premium Hike May Shrink

HHS Secretary asks for a cost review after Alzheimer’s drug price is halved

Doctor filling out questionnaire during at-home visit
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This year’s record Medicare Part B premium hike could get trimmed back after Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra instructed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to reassess it following a price cut for a controversial Alzheimer’s drug.

The standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B, that portion of the federal health insurance program that most recipients pay for covering such things as physician services and outpatient hospital services, was set at $170.10 this year, up $21.60 or 14.5% from 2021. It was the highest percentage hike since 2016 and the biggest dollar increase in the program’s history. 

Part of the jump was due to COVID-19 as well as uncertainty over the cost of certain drugs including Aduhelm, a new clinician-administered Alzheimer’s drug. While Aduhelm originally was slated to cost a typical Alzheimer’s patient about $56,000 per year, its manufacturer Biogen said in late December that it would cut the cost by nearly half, to $28,200, starting on Jan. 1. 

“With the 50% price drop of Aduhelm on January 1, there is a compelling basis for CMS to reexamine the previous recommendation,” Becerra said in a statement.

A CMS spokesperson said in an email that “CMS is reviewing the Secretary's statement to determine next steps.”

The Food and Drug Administration approved Aduhelm last June against the advice of a committee that was in charge of reviewing the drug. Several members of the committee then resigned.

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