Biden Touts Reduction of 2023 Medicare Fees, Due Largely to Limiting of Alzheimer's Drug

Biden Touts Reduction of 2023 Medicare Fees, Due Largely to Limiting of Alzheimer's Drug
President Joe Biden holds up a piece of paper he says highlights a plan by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) while delivering remarks about lowering health care costs in the Rose Garden at the White House on Sept. 27, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Katabella Roberts

President Joe Biden on Tuesday touted a decline in costs for tens of millions of Americans covered by the Medicare health program as the country continues to battle with soaring inflation, stating that the "American people won, and Big Pharma lost."

Monthly premiums for Medicare Part B will drop by $5.20 for an annual savings of about $62.

"It's going to be a godsend to many families," Biden said in remarks at a White House Rose Garden event. "It’s going to take a little while for some of this to kick in, but it’s locked in."
The decline in costs is largely due to a decision to severely limit coverage of a controversial and pricey new Alzheimer's drug marketed as Aduhelm.

Medicare Part B covers things like clinical research, physician services, outpatient hospital services, and others.

"For years, that fee has gone up. Now, for the first time in more than a decade, it’s going to go down," Biden said. "And [for] millions of seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare, that means more money in their pockets while still getting the care they need."

The President touted his efforts as well as the efforts of his fellow Democrats in Congress in helping to bring health care costs down, citing his recently signed Inflation Reduction Act.

However, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that runs the Medicare program, appeared to contradict Biden's statements in a fact sheet published on Tuesday which noted the majority of the drop in cost is due to its decision to limit coverage of Biogen Inc.'s Aduhelm drug 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.

According to CMS, the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B enrollees will be $164.90 for 2023, which marks a decrease of $5.20 from $170.10 in 2022, or 3 percent.

Inflation, Rising Premiums

The program’s annual deductible will also decrease by $7, from $233 to $226, CMS said.

The last time Medicare Part B premiums fell was in 2012, when they declined by 13.4 percent. In 2022, Medicare Part B premiums rose by 14.5 percent, a hike that was majorly driven by the inclusion of Aduhelm, and which further burdened Americans already battling against the increased cost of living.

Aduhelm was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June 2021 after data from clinical trials showed a reduction in the amyloid-beta plaques of the brain, which "is expected to lead to a reduction in the clinical decline of this devastating form of dementia."
However, there were "uncertainties" regarding its clinical benefit. Medicare expressed concerns over the potential benefits of the drug and thus proposed restricting its use to clinical trials.

The reduction in Medicare premiums is likely to be coupled with a historically high cost-of-living increase in Social Security benefits, possibly as much as 9 or 10 percent.

Mary Johnson, the Social Security and Medicare policy analyst for The Senior Citizens League, praised Tuesday's announcement from Biden, stating that it was "something we may never see again in the rest of our lives."

"That can really be used to pay off credit cards, to restock pantries that have gotten low because people can’t afford to buy as much today as they did a year ago, and do some long-postponed repairs to homes and cars," Johnson said.
However, the Republican National Committee said that "desperation is setting in at the White House" ahead of midterm elections, prompting Democrats to regularly tout their every achievement.

"Voters have a clear choice in the midterms as they know Biden and the Democrats sent costs for groceries soaring, created a recession, and increased taxes," the committee said.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.