Alzheimer’s Disease Could ‘Overwhelm’ Medicare
An anticipated "wave of baby boomers with Alzheimer's" could "overwhelm" Medicare and other public health programs, the Alzheimer's Association told members of Congress yesterday. According to a report the group released yesterday, Alzheimer's cost the federal government about $50 billion in 2000, a figure that is expected to increase to $82.3 billion over the next 10 years. Currently, four million Americans have Alzheimer's, and by 2050, an estimated 14 million people will have the disease. While Medicare does not "directly cover" prescription medicine and nursing homes stays for Alzheimer's patients, the association predicts that by 2010, Medicare will "foot a $49.3 billion bill" for people with Alzheimer's who are "unable to manage their treatments for other diseases such as diabetes." Actor David Hyde Pierce, Niles Crane on NBC's "Frasier," testified yesterday before the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, saying, "The only reason Alzheimer's has not already bankrupted Medicare and Medicaid is that those programs don't pay for much of the care a person with Alzheimer's needs. But we are incurring a lot of collateral damage" (McQueen, Associated Press, 4/3). He added, "We can't go on like this. We cannot sustain the skyrocketing human and financial costs to families and federal and state budgets. And, fortunately, we do not have to. But we have a very narrow window of time in which to act. ... Congress has to find a way" (CNN, "Live This Morning," 4/3). Pierce lost both his father and grandfather to the disease. The Alzheimer's Association wants Congress to take $200 million of the $2.8 billion increase for NIH contained in President Bush's proposed budget and add that money to the $500 million the government already spends on Alzheimer's research each year (Associated Press, 4/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.