What We’re Reading: Medicare Part B Premium to Increase; COVID-19 Cases Surge in Nursing Homes; Panel Rejects Alzheimer Disease Drug

Medicare Part B outpatient premiums will increase in 2021; nursing homes report rises in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases; advisory panel votes down Biogen's Alzheimer disease drug.

Outpatient Premiums for Medicare Part B to Increase

Medicare Part B beneficiaries will see their outpatient premium increase by $3.90 next year, bringing the total to $148.50, The Associated Press reports. The increase will amount to a significant portion of retirees’ Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and totals to nearly 20% of the average retired individual’s COLA of $20 a month in 2021. However, some worried the increase would have been steeper as the government’s emergency actions to stabilize the health care system during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis may have triggered higher premium increases. By law, the premium covers 25% of the cost of Medicare’s supplemental insurance for outpatient services.

Nursing Homes Report Rise in COVID-19 Cases, Deaths

In states experiencing surges of COVID-19 cases, nursing homes are being hit particularly hard, according to an Associated Press analysis. Federal data from 20 states show that new weekly cases among nursing home residents increased nearly 4-fold from the end of May to late October. In the same time frame, resident deaths have more than doubled from 318 to 699 per week. In addition, weekly COVID-19 cases among nursing home staff have also more than quadrupled from the end of May to the end of October, raising concerns that those who are not yet showing symptoms may be letting the virus into facilities. In an attempt to bolster prevention efforts, the Trump administration allocated $5 billion to nursing homes. So far, 10 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19 and global cases have surpassed 50 million.

Advisory Panel Rejects Controversial Alzheimer Disease Drug

After FDA reviewers endorsed a controversial Alzheimer disease drug last week, an expert panel has since rejected Biogen’s aducanumab, STAT News reports. The panel concluded that clinical data did not support the approval of the drug. Clinical studies of the treatment were initially stopped as a benefit seemed unlikely, but a reanalysis of the data showed 1 of 2 studies did indeed show a benefit while the other did not. Of the 11 experts on the panel, 10 voted that the data produced by the singular positive study were not sufficient to demonstrate the drug could slow cognitive decline in individuals with Alzheimer disease; the final panelist voted “uncertain.” The rejection could make it difficult for the FDA to ultimately approve the drug.