I know that some people wonder if President Obama’s interest in reforming the health care system should really be a part of righting our economy. I do understand the concerns; however, I think about the impact of the health care tsunami caused by Alzheimer’s alone. The Alzheimer’s Association has just released a report that helps to make the case for why President Obama should not wait. Here are the facts and figures that should be part of any conversation about health care reform:
- Over 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease; 14 percent of those are at least 71 years old.
Implications for Families
- Family members provide care at home for about 70 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease
- Approximately 10 million unpaid caregivers (often family members) of people with Alzheimer's disease spent 8.5 billion hours in 2008 in caregiving activities, which is estimated as being worth $94 billion
Implications for the Health Care System
- The average annual health-care cost for someone older than 65 with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia was $33,007 in 2004. This amount was three times more than the $10,603 for people of a similar age without dementia.
- Medicare payments are almost three times higher for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia than for others age 65 and over; Medicaid payments are more than nine times higher.
- In 2006, Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes plus Alzheimer’s or another dementia had 64 percent more hospital stays than those with diabetes and no Alzheimer’s, and their average per person Medicare costs were $20,655 compared to $12,979 for beneficiaries with diabetes but no Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- In 2006, Medicare beneficiaries with coronary heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia had 42 percent more hospital stays than those with coronary heart disease and no Alzheimer’s or dementia, and their average per person Medicare costs were $20,780 compared to $14,640 for beneficiaries with coronary heart disease but no Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Out-of-pocket costs that are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or other sources of insurance are 28 percent higher for Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s than those without. Individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementia living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities incurred the highest out-of-pocket costs – an average of $16,689 a year.
- Deaths from Alzheimer's disease rose by 47 percent from 2000 to 2006. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the country, surpassing diabetes; it is the fifth leading cause of death among individuals 65 and older. However, deaths from other major diseases (heart attack, stroke, breast cancer and prostate cancer) declined during that same period.
Implications for States
- States in the Rocky Mountains and Northwest will see the number of citizens who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease increase by at least 81 percent between 2000 and 2025.
- California and Florida will each be home to more than a half-million people with Alzheimer's disease by 2025.
Having watched my mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s and also seen the stress this disease placed on my parents’ financial situation (as well as my own as a caregiver) makes me comes to the conclusion that health care reform can’t wait. The reason why? Alzheimer’s doesn’t wait and will continue to affect more and more Americans.
Published On: March 24, 2009