What Happened, What You Missed: September 26-30


Medicare Part B Premiums to Decrease Next Year

Medicare beneficiaries will see lower Part B premiums in 2023, according to an announcement from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on September 27. The upcoming premium drop follows a spike in 2022 premiums that was largely driven by the high projected cost of the new Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm.  However, CMS was able to lower its estimates for 2023 after the cost of Aduhelm fell, paving the way for the agency to lower its Part B premiums for next year.  Lower-than-expecting spending on Part B services also factored into the agency’s decision to lower 2023 premiums.  CMS also announced earlier this week that Part A premiums will rise to $7 in 2023.  On Thursday, CMS also announced lower premiums for Medicare Advantage and Part D prescription drug plans in 2023.

Pfizer Applies for EUA for Omicron Booster for Children Ages 5-11

On Monday, Pfizer applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Omicron-targeted bivalent COVID-19 booster for children ages five to eleven years old.  The submission comes a week after Moderna filed an EUA application with the FDA for its own bivalent booster for children ages six to seventeen.  In a document released on September 20, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it expects to make a recommendation in early- to mid-October on the use of the new bivalent vaccines in children and adolescents, pending authorization by the FDA.  While human data on the efficacy of the new COVID-19 boosters won’t be available for another month or two, FDA and CDC officials are confident that the updated boosters offer better protection against infections and disease in the coming months.

Experimental Alzheimer’s Drug Shows Promise

Pharmaceutical companies Biogen and Esai announced on Tuesday that their experimental Alzheimer’s disease treatment slowed the rate of cognitive decline by 27% in a clinical trial.  The announcement increases the likelihood that the FDA could approve the drug as early as January 2023.  The clinical trial data also renews hope in the potential for anti-amyloid drugs, which work by clearing the buildup of amyloid proteins which are linked to development of Alzheimer’s disease.   The FDA greenlit Biogen’s first anti-amyloid drug known as Aduhelm last year, despite the little evidence demonstrating the drug’s efficacy.  According to both companies, the new drug began to show a benefit to patients about six months after they began taking it in clinical trial consisted of 1,800 participants with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer’s disease.

White House Proposes Medicare-Covered Meals to End Hunger 

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden proposed Medicare coverage for medically tailored meals as a part of an overarching plan to end hunger that includes updates to nutrition labels and an expansion of food security programs.  The president also called for expanded access to nutrition and obesity counseling for people on Medicare and Medicaid as well as making the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program a Medicare preventive services benefit.  However, many of the president’s proposals have an uncertain future, as most ideas would require the support of a polarized Congress.

House to Vote on Stopgap Spending Bill Today

The Senate voted 72-25 yesterday afternoon to approve a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open through December 16, setting the stage for the House to vote on the CR sometime today.  The CR notably includes a five-year extension of FDA user fee programs that lacks policy riders that were initially a part of previous user fee extension proposals.  Additionally, the CR includes disaster relief funding for Alaska, Florida, and Puerto Rico, as well as billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine.  Following today’s vote, lawmakers will return to the campaign trail for the 2022 midterm election.  While the House isn’t scheduled to return until after the election in November, the Senate will be reconvening in mid-October.

ICYMI: Pop Star Performs with James Madison’s Flute

At a concert in Washington, DC earlier this week, pop artist Lizzo performed with a crystal flute that once belonged to President James Madison. This was the first time the instrument had been played in over 200 years.  The flute was a part of a collection at the Library of Congress, which is allegedly the largest flute collection in the world.  A French flute designer originally gifted the fourth president the instrument in 1813 to commemorate Madison’s second inauguration.  Lizzo began training as a classical flutist at the age of 10 and had studied the instrument in college.

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