Needs of Escalating Alzheimer Population Addressed in Finance Committee Health Care Reform Proposal
- Alzheimer’s Association Commends Work of Senator Baucus –
As the leading research and advocacy organization for Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Association applauds the Senate Finance Committee and the leadership of its Chairman, Max Baucus (D-MT), for advancing health care reform legislation that will positively affect the growing Alzheimer population.
"The legislation approved by the Senate Finance Committee will improve the health care delivery system for people with Alzheimer’s disease," said Robert Egge, Vice President of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Public Policy and Advocacy Division. "We are particularly pleased with those elements that improve the health care delivery system through the promotion of care coordination and transitional care."
Today, there are 5.3 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and most have one or more other serious medical conditions. For example, in 2004, 26 percent of Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s and other dementias also had coronary heart disease and 23 percent also had diabetes. Cognitive impairment greatly complicates the management of these other conditions, resulting in more hospitalizations, longer hospital stays, and higher costs than for those with these same conditions but no Alzheimer’s disease.
The health care reform measure approved by the Finance Committee would begin to address this problem by:
- Creating a new demonstration project, known as the Innovation Center, to examine ways to promote care coordination in the Medicare program. This initiative would specifically target individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. "Care coordination is a process for ensuring effective communication among medical and community care providers and connecting an individual and their family with the services they need," Egge said. "The new Innovation Center will help identify which programs work best for individuals with dementia."
- Establishing a three-year Medicare pilot program to provide transitional care to seniors at a high risk, including those with cognitive impairment, of reentering a hospital. "Cognitive impairment increases the complexity of care transitions and post-acute care, resulting in increased risk for medication errors and hospital readmissions," said Egge. "Alzheimer families need assistance with planning and managing discharge and post-acute care, including arranging and monitoring in-home medical treatment and supportive services."
The Alzheimer’s Association is also pleased that the Finance Committee has taken steps to address individuals with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease – those under the age of 65 – who have a difficult time getting and keeping private health insurance. Currently, almost 29 percent of individuals with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease have no health insurance, causing a great financial burden on their families. The proposals would make health insurance available to those with pre-existing conditions, and there would also be guaranteed issue and renewability. "We are pleased to see the health care reform proposals ensure that individuals with younger-onset Alzheimer’s can obtain and retain health insurance," said Egge.
Egge added, "With more than 5 million people with Alzheimer’s disease today and that number expected to grow to as many as 16 million by mid-century, the Alzheimer’s Association believes that these measures will greatly assist the increasing number of individuals and families grappling with what an Alzheimer diagnosis brings to their lives. They will help ease some of the financial and emotional burden on Alzheimer families, and we hope they remain in the final health care reform legislation."
While the Alzheimer’s Association applauds Senator Baucus and the members of the Senate Finance Committee for their work, Egge noted that there is more work to be done. "As the health care reform process continues in Congress, we hope that additional provisions will be included to help the growing number of Alzheimer families by expanding the coverage of coordinated care and providing a national voluntary insurance program to help people obtain coverage for long-term care services."
The Alzheimer's Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s.
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