Medicare beneficiaries who had hoped to receive some relief from the 14.5% increase in Part B premiums this year are going to be disappointed, but they may see lower premiums in 2023.
Medicare Part B premiums, which cover doctors’ fees and outpatient services, rose from $148.50 per month in 2021 to $170.10 per month this year. When the 2022 premium was announced last November, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said the unusually large increase was driven in part by the statutory requirement to prepare for potential expenses, such as spending trends driven by COVID-19 and the uncertain pricing and utilization of Aduhelm, a new drug to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
At the time CMS announced the 2022 premium in the fall of 2021, Aduhelm cost an average of $56,000 per year. After the 2022 Medicare Part B premium was set, the manufacturer of Aduhelm reduced the price to an average of $26,200.
In January, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra instructed CMS to reassess the 2022 Part B premium amount in response to the reduction in the price of Aduhelm.
On May 27, CMS announced that any savings due to changes in the cost of Aduhelm will be reflected in the 2023 Medicare Part B premium. “Given the information available today, it is expected that the 2023 premium will be lower than 2022,” the announcement said. The final premium determination will be made this fall.
In a report accompanying the announcement, CMS determined that it was impractical to try to adjust Medicare Part B premiums mid-year in 2022.
“Such a change would require the retroactive processing of million of claims which would take over a year and additional resources to complete,” according to the report. It also determined that CMS does not have sufficient authority to send premium refunds directly to beneficiaries.
“CMS found that incorporating the premium effects of Aduhelm’s price reduction … into the 2023 premium is the only practically feasible option,” the report said.