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Comprehensive Alzheimer’s Care Legislation May Offer Financial Stability

Alzheimer’s News Today June 2021

Author: Ray Burow

Three hundred and five billion! In 2020, that was the estimated cost for supporting Alzheimer’s care in the United States. Even with the contribution of unpaid caregivers, the cost is expected to rise to $1 trillion by 2050.

Familial caregivers are making a huge contribution to the nation, paying an estimated $66 billion out of pocket in care dollars, but what will happen when baby boomer caregivers age out of their role? Medicare and Medicaid covered $206 billion in 2020 for Alzheimer’s patients, but more attention to the cost of care is necessary as the U.S. population ages and the prevalence of Alzheimer’s rises among baby boomers.

Unpaid caregivers provide 75% of care for Alzheimer’s patients in the United States

Familial carers take on the caregiving role because they feel called to do so, even obligated, but what does the future for Alzheimer’s patients in this country look like as caregivers age and, sadly, die off? One in three caregivers is 65 or older and may need care down the road. The cost of care will turn into a huge burden for the United States government. The following issues must be addressed in advance of the landslide of people who will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

Financial impact

A definite financial impact lands on caregivers. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is more costly than providing care for cancer or heart disease patients. Many caregivers bear the financial burden. Some stop working to stay home and provide care, while others shell out payments to healthcare agencies to provide skilled nursing care for a loved one.

In the final years of life for Alzheimer’s patients, healthcare spending reaches, on average, more than $280,000, compared to $183,000 paid out in care for patients suffering from other diseases. While this directly affects familial caregivers, it’s not just their problem. Sooner or later the cost of Alzheimer’s care will affect the U.S. economy and government spending. We need to prepare now for a certain future that will include billions and trillions of dollars to replace what current caregivers spend on care.

Elected officials step up

The Comprehensive Care for Alzheimer’s Act will address issues related to caring for Alzheimer’s patients and is supported by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM). The bipartisan legislation is being introduced by Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Reps. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Darin Lahood (R-Ill.), and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.).

In a recent press release, Robert Egge, the Alzheimer’s Association chief public policy officer and AIM executive director, said, “This bill is the next step on the path to high-quality dementia care.”

In the same press release, Rep. Tonko said, “Congress can make a real difference in the lives of millions of Americans who are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and the millions more who love and care for them, by making treatment more affordable, accessible and comprehensive.”

How the bill will make a difference

If enacted, the Comprehensive Care for Alzheimer’s Act will “provide person-centered services, including the development of a dementia care plan, care coordination and navigation, and caregiver education and support.”

The bill was introduced to the Senate in April and “allows the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to test a Dementia Care Management Model that provides comprehensive care to Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia,” according to a bill summary on Congress.gov.

The bill will allow Medicare to provide payment for comprehensive care management to healthcare providers for their patients who’ve been diagnosed with dementia. Some conditions apply. For instance, payments for Medicare Advantage enrollees, nursing home residents, and hospice patients are excluded. Services that fall under the Comprehensive Care for Alzheimer’s Act include medication management, coordination of care, and health, financial, and environmental monitoring. Training and support services for familial/unpaid caregivers are also included. A similar model will also be allowed under Medicaid.

You’re not alone after all

While completing the day-to-day tasks associated with caregiving, it’s easy to think that you’re all alone and the only individual considering the future of Alzheimer’s disease, the exorbitant costs associated with it, and how it will affect our country. It’s encouraging to know that elected officials — individuals carrying weight and power — are contemplating it, too, and are devising a policy to address issues that directly affect caregivers and people with the mind-altering disease.

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