New Report Should Inform Policymakers' Discussions about Health Care

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Because the U.S. Congress is still having debates about the United States health care system, I decided to share the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2011 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report with my own representative. I didn’t make any statements in my email to him about my views about health care reform, but did point out the toll that Alzheimer’s takes on the caregiver’s physical, emotional and financial well-being as well as the person with the disease.


    Speaking of health care finances, let’s look at what the report has to say on that front. Here’s a whopper for you: “For people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, aggregate payments for health care, long-term care and hospice are projected to increase from $183 billion in 2011 to $1.1 trillion in 2050 (in 2011 dollars),” according to the report’s authors. Here's some other important information:

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    • Medicare: The report noted that Medicare payments per person for beneficiaries who were 65 and older who had dementia in 2004 were almost three times higher ($19,304) than average Medicare payments for other Medicare beneficiaries of this age ($6,720). 
    • Medicaid: The report notes that 22 percent of older people with dementia who have Medicare also have Medicaid, which pays for nursing home and long-term care services for some people with very low income and few assets. Medicaid payments per person for Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and up with dementia were more than nine times ($8,419) greater than the average Medicaid payments for other Medicare beneficiaries in this age group ($915).

    The report also looks at the use of various health care facilities by people with dementia. For instance, research has found that people with dementia have three times as many hospital stays as other older people. People who have dementia and other health conditions (coronary heart disease, diabetes, congestive heart failure, or cancer) have higher use and costs of healthcare services than do people with these other health conditions who do not have dementia. The report’s authors offer the following information on use of healthcare services by setting:

    • Hospitals: In 2004, Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older had almost three times more hospital stays than Medicare beneficiaries of this same age group who did not have dementia. About 25% of all hospital patients age 65 and older at any point in time are people with dementia. The reasons for hospitalization tend to be syncope, fall and trauma (26%), ischemic heart disease (17%) and gastrointestinal disease (9%).
    • Skilled nursing facility: The report notes that there were 318 skilled nursing facility stays per 1,000 beneficiaries with dementia in 2004. The number of stays for people without dementia during this same time period was 38 stays per 1,000 beneficiaries.
    • Home health care: One-quarter of Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and above who received Medicare-covered home healthcare services in 2004 had dementia.

    The report also notes that the average per person payments from all sources of healthcare services (hospital, physician, other medical providers, skilled nursing facility, home health care and prescription medications) in 2004 were higher for Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and above with dementia than for other Medicare beneficiaries in the same age group without dementia. These figures included $9,758 for hospital stays by those beneficiaries with dementia (as compared to $3,503 for beneficiaries without dementia), $5,551 for medical provider (as compared to $3,948 for beneficiaries without dementia), $3,862 for skilled nursing facility (as compared to $424 for beneficiaries without dementia), $1,601 for home health care (as compared to $359 for beneficiaries without dementia),  and $3,198 for prescription medications (as compared to $2,203 for beneficiaries without dementia).


  • I’m hoping that by sending this report to my congressman, he’ll understand that there are a lot of challenges in relation to Alzheimer’s in developing health care policy. All I want is for him to make informed decisions when the subject comes up.

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Published On: March 28, 2011