WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan penned an op-ed on Sunday in the Bradenton Herald detailing how the Biden administration has unilaterally restricted Medicare coverage of the first new Alzheimer’s treatment in nearly two decades.
“America’s seniors deserve better than an administration that undermines innovation and halts progress toward revolutionary cures,” said Buchanan. “As Alzheimer’s continues to affect more Americans every day, it’s my hope that we can find a better path forward that prioritizes these patients and treatments that give them hope for a long and healthy life.”
This op-ed ran in the Sunday print edition of the Bradenton Herald. You can read it here or below.
Biden’s Policies Impeding Hope for Alzheimer’s Patients
By Rep. Vern Buchanan
Alzheimer’s is one of the leading causes of death among Americans aged 65 and older, and currently, six million people are living with this terrible affliction. While I’m privileged to represent over 240,000 seniors in Southwest Florida, the tragic reality of this disease is particularly present in our community.
Many patients and families struggle to find answers or assistance following an initial diagnosis. When the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first new treatment for Alzheimer’s in nearly two decades last summer, it provided a glimmer of hope to those struggling to adapt to their new reality.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration and unelected Washington bureaucrats at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) unilaterally restricted coverage of this potentially life-saving drug and any similar future treatments for all eligible Medicare recipients despite FDA’s approval.
This overreaching decision was shocking and unprecedented. In short, CMS second-guessed the FDA scientists who approved the drug, denying coverage despite Medicare beneficiaries already paying higher 2022 Part B premiums in anticipation of full coverage. CMS’s actions limit this treatment’s availability to only those who can afford to buy it out-of-pocket or are participating in a CMS-sanctioned drug trial – a fraction of those eligible.
As Republican Leader of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, I have repeatedly called on the Biden administration to abandon their plan to deny Alzheimer’s patients access to this treatment. In March, I led a meeting to discuss CMS’s actions and the devastating effects it will have on the Alzheimer’s community. I also sent a letter with my Republican colleagues to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure calling on CMS to rethink this ill-advised decision and consider, if finalized, the harmful impact it would have on seniors and their families.
Unfortunately, this decision shouldn’t come as a surprise. Democrats in Washington have continuously pursued policies that could harm seniors, stifle innovation and move manufacturing overseas, particularly to China.
This decision could also have a chilling effect on the research and development of new innovative cures and treatments. American innovation brought multiple COVID-19 vaccines to the public at warp speed and we should harness that power, not undermine it. CMS should make it easier for Alzheimer’s patients to access new treatments, not unreasonably restrict a potentially life-changing drug for our nation’s most vulnerable.
Instead of stifling innovators, Congress should help them develop more life-saving treatments. That’s why I introduced the Start-Ups for Cures Act and the More Cures Act to encourage the development of American-made therapies and cures while strengthening our domestic supply chain.
Americans for Tax Reform called these bills “an important alternative to Democrats’ assault on innovation.”
America’s seniors deserve better than an administration that undermines innovation and halts progress toward revolutionary cures. As Alzheimer’s continues to affect more Americans every day, it’s my hope that we can find a better path forward that prioritizes these patients and treatments that give them hope for a long and healthy life.
Vern Buchanan represents Florida’s 16th District in the House of Representatives and is the co-chairman of the bipartisan Florida delegation. Buchanan is second in seniority on the Ways and Means Committee, where he serves as the lead Republican of the Health Subcommittee.