The Alzheimer’s Association was pleased to host a town hall meeting on Aug. 14 and to have Rep. Marlin Stutzman and Jorge Ortiz, regional director for Sen. Joe Donnelly, attend to hear the comments of those attending, answer questions and discuss public policy and legislative issues directly related to Alzheimer’s disease.
Sen. Dan Coats’ office did not respond to an invitation to participate. In the 2014 fiscal year budget before Congress, there is proposal for an additional $100 million for funding of Alzheimer’s services; $80 million is for research, and the remaining $20 million is for state-based improvements in dementia care services, education and training, and increased public awareness of community resources. These funds are for services recommended by the National Institute of Health and by the Department of Health and Human Services enactment of the National Alzheimer’s Plan.
Congressman Stutzman asked, rightfully so, why Congress should approve these funds when our budget is operating at a deficit. He cited a number of other illnesses that cause death and are burdensome to people affected and their families. The response is that Alzheimer’s is the single-most costly illness in the United States. This year Medicare and Medicaid costs for Alzheimer’s will exceed $400 million. Medicare costs for a person with dementia average three times higher than spending on other seniors, and Medicaid spending is 19 times higher in comparison.
As the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States Alzheimer’s is the only one of the top 10 that does not have treatment to slow its progress, a prevention or a cure. If we are to change the projected increases in numbers of people affected (up to 16 million) and the projected cost ($1.2 trillion) by 2050, now is the time we must budget for and invest in the goals of the National Alzheimer’s Plan.
It is time for our Congress to recognize the 2014 fiscal year budget request of an additional $100 million is a smart investment in both the health of our nation as well as the economy.
Jana Powell, Alzheimer’s Association ambassador