Wyden Calls for Action to Lower Medicare Premiums for Seniors

Washington, D.C. – Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today called on the Biden administration to limit Medicare Part B premium increases for seniors. Half of the proposed increase is attributable to potential costs associated with covering Aduhelm, an Alzheimer’s drug that was given accelerated approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) despite limited evidence of effectiveness that has a sticker price of $56,000. Medicare has not yet decided to cover the drug.

“Medicare beneficiaries cannot afford to be saddled with a record increase in monthly premium costs—especially when those premium costs are being driven up by uncertain expectations of sky high Medicare costs for an outrageously expensive drug like Aduhelm that has presented limited clinical evidence of its effectiveness,” Wyden wrote. 

Instead of the dramatic increase in premiums currently scheduled, Wyden urged the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reduce or eliminate the portion of the premium increase related to uncertainty around Aduhelm coverage and utilization. “Taking this type of approach would reduce near-term expenses for seniors on fixed incomes and ensure that the Part B premium accurately reflects Medicare’s expenditures for Aduhelm and other Alzheimer’s disease drugs that are not currently covered by Medicare,” Wyden wrote. 

The letter, sent to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, comes in response to record-high premium increases for Medicare Part B. CMS officials have indicated that about half of the Part B premium increase for 2022 is due to contingency planning for the costs associated with possible Medicare coverage of Aduhelm and other new Alzheimer’s disease drugs. The letter follows a call by Senator Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., to President Biden to take action on the proposed premium increase.

Earlier this year, the FDA granted accelerated approval for Aduhelm for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. This accelerated approval came despite the fact that the FDA’s Advisory Committee recommended that FDA not approve the drug, after studies failed to show strong evidence of the drug’s effectiveness.

The full letter is here.

A web version of this release is here.