House Democrats are ramping up pressure on the Biden administration to lower Medicare Part B premiums after the price for controversial drug Aduhelm was slashed in half.
More than 30 lawmakers wrote to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure to get her to rethink the 14.5% hike in Part B premiums announced late last year.
“The 14.5% increase hits our seniors in our districts across the country at a particularly vulnerable time,” the letter, led by Rep. Angie Craig, D-Minnesota, and dated Tuesday, said.
CMS increased the premiums in anticipation of a coverage decision on Biogen’s Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm, which was approved last year by the Food and Drug Administration and launched at a $56,000 price tag.
But Biogen faced a massive blowback to the price, fueled in part by lingering questions about the drug’s effectiveness at improving the condition of patients with the disease. Major insurers have shied away from covering the drug as well as some health systems such as Cleveland Clinic.
Biogen decided at the end of 2021 to cut the price of Aduhelm in half.
Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra called for CMS to rethink the premium hikes after the price decline.
The lawmakers agreed with Becerra’s decision, saying the premium hikes would be too much for seniors still struggling financially due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As the global pandemic rages on and prices rise in many sectors of the economy, our nation’s seniors simply cannot afford this sudden and unnecessary increase in their healthcare costs,” the letter said. “We cannot continue to ask the American people to underwrite the pharmaceutical industry’s outrageous profits.”
CMS did not return a request for comment on a timeline on when a decision will be made on the premiums.
The agency announced a proposal for Medicare to cover the drug but only for patients in a qualifying clinical trial, a decision that Biogen and some patient groups have slammed as restricting access to an FDA-approved treatment.
CMS will issue a final decision on the coverage in April. Agency officials refused to say during a call with reporters last week whether the coverage decision will impact the Part B premiums.