On the morning of Christmas Eve, the United States Senate gave a long-awaited gift to Americans, but especially to those who are affected or will be affected by Alzheimer's disease. The gift: the passage today, in a 60-39 vote, of historic healthcare overhaul, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Well worth recognizing, I issued this statement:
"On behalf of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), and our more than 1,200 member organizations, we congratulate United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and all members of the United States Senate who voted to pass The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
"AFA believes The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act includes several provisions that will be particularly helpful to individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and their family caregivers. We supported these provisions from the beginning of the Senate's effort and are grateful to see them included in the final bill:
• Independence at Home Act demonstration provides home-based coordinated care for high-cost Medicare beneficiaries with two or more chronic conditions, which studies show can reduce healthcare expenditures, improve quality of care and enhance health outcomes.
• Inclusion of ‘detection of any cognitive impairment' in the new annual wellness exam for Medicare beneficiaries is a new and much-needed benefit for early identification of memory problems or Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.
• Direct care training funding over three years will help to establish new training opportunities for direct care workers that provide long-term care services and supports.
• Geriatric workforce provisions authorize funding to geriatric education centers to support training in geriatrics, chronic care management and long-term care for faculty in health professions schools and family caregivers; develop curricula and best practices in geriatrics; expand the geriatric career awards to advanced practice nurses, clinical social workers, pharmacists and psychologists; and establish traineeships for individuals who are preparing for advanced education nursing degrees in geriatric nursing.
• The Nursing Home Transparency Act enhances American families' access to information about the quality of care in nearly 16,000 nursing homes that receive $75 billion a year in Medicare and Medicaid funds, and will improve the government's ability to ensure quality care and better-trained staff at those facilities.
• Background checks in long-term care facilities for employees with direct-patient access give families greater assurance that their loved ones are safe because it will require these employees to pass a background check for previous criminal activity and abuse.
• The Elder Justice Act strengthens the network of agencies that investigate abuse and neglect in facilities and in the community, including improving the training of long-term care ombudsmen and state health inspectors, requiring reporting of neglect and abuse, and ensuring that residents are protected when nursing homes close.
• The CLASS Act creates a disability insurance program financed through voluntary payroll deductions for adults who become unable to perform at least two activities of daily living, and provides a much-needed benefit to help obtain services and supports, while providing disabled individuals more choices and opportunities to live and participate in their communities.
"In addition, AFA was proud to support Senator Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) amendment that prohibits insurers from dropping coverage because an individual chooses to participate in a clinical trial and from denying coverage for routine care that they would otherwise provide just because an individual is enrolled in a clinical trial for the treatment of life-threatening diseases. AFA was one of 85 organizations and the only Alzheimer's disease-related group that supported this amendment.
"We congratulate the Senate for its historic vote, and we look forward to working with members of the Senate and House of Representatives as the process moves forward to final passage of health reform."
The holidays are often an especially stressful time for families with a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia. This health issue can become overwhelming for many when coupled with financial and social pressures during this time of year. Today's victory, with the prospect of reduced costs and greater protection on the horizon for families impacted by Alzheimer's disease, would lift some of the burden.
As sweeping healthcare change moves to the final stages in the full Congress, I hope there will be more good news to wake up to on the healthcare reform scene as the New Year unfolds.
Published On: December 28, 2009