The unexpectedly sharp increase in Medicare Part B premiums for 2022 is, in part, thanks to a recently-approved Alzheimer’s drug.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced next year’s premiums for Medicare Part B last month and specifically cited Aduhelm (aducanumab), a new intravenous Alzheimer’s treatment approved by the FDA in June, as one of multiple reasons for the $21.60 per month increase. The price hike brings 2022 monthly Part B premiums to $170.10 and is the largest in nominal dollars in Part B’s history, according to CBS News. At the same time, CMS announced annual deductibles for Part B will also go up by $30 to $233 in 2022.
The question of whether or not Aduhelm’s annual five-figure price tag will even be covered under Part B is still an open one, and this uncertainty was a factor in the CMS decision to increase premiums.
“While the outcome of the coverage determination is unknown, our projection in no way implies what the coverage determination will be; however, we must plan for the possibility of coverage for this high-cost Alzheimer’s drug which could, if covered, result in significantly higher expenditures for the Medicare program,” CMS said in the press release explaining the rate hikes.
About a month after news broke of the planned increase, Biogen, the Cambridge, Massachusetts, company behind Aduhelm, announced a decrease in the price of the treatment by about half. The company expects the average yearly cost of maintenance dosage to be about $28,200, a decrease from the original price tag of more than $50,000. The Associated Press reports Medicaid is likely to be one of the primary purchasers of Aduhelm.
Along with the unusually high Part B premium increase comes the largest Social Security cost-of-living adjustment in about three decades, CMS announced at the same time last month. The organization claims the 5.9% COLA will offset the price of Part B going up.
“Most people with Medicare will see a significant net increase in Social Security benefits,” CMS said in a press release. “For example, a retired worker who currently receives $1,565 per month from Social Security can expect to receive a net increase of $70.40 more per month after the Medicare Part B premium is deducted.”
Aduhelm’s future is not certain despite its FDA approval. NPR reports that, despite being the first new Alzheimer’s drug approved in almost two decades, Biogen only reported $300,000 in Aduhelm sales in its first quarter after approval. The rocky approval process included an FDA advisory board voting against approval of the drug. Aduhelm is also only intended to treat Alzheimer’s in its early stages.