RISE summarizes recent regulatory news.

Congressional report: Opioid epidemic cost U.S. nearly $1.5T in 2020

A new analysis by the U.S Congress Joint Economic Committee (JEC) reveals that the opioid epidemic cost the United States a record of nearly $1.5 trillion in 2020. This is up 37 percent from 2017, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last measured the cost.

Among the key findings of the report:

  • Opioid use increase following the COVID-19 pandemic. The disruption to the health care system reduced access to substance abuse and exacerbated social economic stress that can worsen addiction.
  • Opioids are now the main driver of drug overdose deaths. The highest numbers of fatal opioid overdoses ever reported took place in 2020 (69,061 fatalities) and 2021 (80,926 fatalities).
  • The estimated cost of the epidemic was $1.04 trillion in 2018. In 2020, the cost is nearly $1.5 trillion and the committee said that the rise in fatal opioid overdoses in 2021 suggests costs will likely continue to increase.
  • Although the majority of those who overdose from opioids are white, Black communities are disproportionately impacted by the opioid crisis and have experienced a steep increase in the rate of fatal opioid overdoses over the last five years. In 2020, Black Americans accounted for 12.4 percent of people living in the United States but 17 percent of U.S. fatal opioid overdoses—an increase of 5 percentage points from 2017.

“Without question, the greatest tragedies of the opioid epidemic continue to be the lives lost, the families and communities they’ve left behind and the many who are still struggling with addiction,” said JEC Chairman Don Beyer (D-VA), in an announcement. “But what the new JEC estimates make clear is just how disastrous this crisis has also been for our entire economy. Just as the pandemic exacerbated many societal inequities, it also disrupted treatment and created new health challenges that worsened our country’s opioid problem. As a nation, we are now less healthy, less economically competitive, and less secure as a result of the opioid epidemic that continues to ravage our country. We must continue to take action to address this public health and economic crisis.”

Seniors will pay less for Medicare Part B premiums in 2023

As expected, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B will be $164.90 for 2023, a decrease of $5.20 from $170.10 in 2022. The annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries is $226 in 2023, a decrease of $7 from the annual deductible of $233 in 2022.

The decrease follows 2022’s largest annual increase in the program’s history. Medicare Part B premiums jumped 14.5 percent to cover the expected cost of the Alzheimer’s drug, Adulhelm. Biogen, which manufactures Aduhelm, initially set the annual price for the drug at $56,000 –but later cut the annual price to $28,200. As a result, CMS had much larger reserves in the Part B account of the Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund, which can be used to limit future Part B increases. The decrease in next year’s premium follows CMS recommendation in May that the agency pass along the cost savings when it calculates the 2023 premium.

CDC: Number of states with high rates of adult obesity more than doubles

Nineteen states and two territories have at least 35 percent of residents with adult obesity—more than doubling the number of states with a high obesity prevalence since 2018, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 2021 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps also highlight the need to address disparities in obesity across states and racial and ethnic populations, through increased access to obesity prevention and treatment.

Combined data from 2019–2021 show the number of states and territories with an obesity prevalence of 35 percent or higher varies widely across race and ethnicity:

Adults with obesity are at increased risk for many other serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, severe outcomes from COVID-19, and poor mental health. Additionally, many people with obesity report being stigmatized because of their weight.

“This report illustrates the urgent need for making obesity prevention and treatment accessible to all Americans in every state and every community,” CDC acting principal deputy director, Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., said in an announcement. “When we provide stigma-free support to adults living with obesity, we can help save lives and reduce severe outcomes of disease.”

The 19 states and two territories are: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.