- Medicare Part B premiums will remain the same this year even after HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra called for a review of premiums following drugmaker Biogen's price cut to Alzheimer's drug Aduhelm, a driver behind this year's premium hike.
- Becerra had hoped premiums could be cut for seniors sooner rather than later but there are "legal and operational hurdles" to changing premiums midyear, according to a statement released Friday.
- The expected reduction in Aduhelm costs will be rolled into premiums for next year, HHS said.
Last fall, health regulators braced for a potential spike in Medicare expenditures due to the controversial and pricey Alzheimer's drug. Amid the uncertainty and potential for increased spending, officials raised Part B premiums.
However, a large increase in Medicare spending due to Aduhelm did not materialize due to price cuts and policy decisions.
Since Medicare premiums were announced last fall, Aduhelm's price was cut in half and Medicare officials ultimately decided to restrict access to the new drug. Medicare said it would not pay for the drug unless Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in clinical trials.
Altogether, the decisions have sharply curtailed projected Medicare spending on Aduhelm.
In January, Becerra instructed health officials to reevaluate the increase to Medicare Part B premiums in response to the price cut.
Becerra said Friday that premium reductions for seniors will have to wait until next year following the release of the report.
"We had hoped to achieve this sooner, but CMS explains that the options to accomplish this would not be feasible," Becerra said in a statement.
Officials considered returning premiums to beneficiaries, but the internal report concluded CMS does not have the authority to send premium refunds to Medicare beneficiaries in this instance.
Instead, the projected savings from Aduhelm will be applied to the 2023 premium.
The controversial new treatment for Alzheimer's disease was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last summer, a decision that has generated intense scrutiny and pushback.
Documents show that some inside the FDA were opposed to approving the drug, noting there was not enough evidence to support whether the drug benefited patients, according to reporting from BioPharma Dive.