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Report: Health costs for Alzheimer’s to skyrocket

Health costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease are projected to skyrocket in the coming decades, a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association warns.  

The advocacy organization’s report, released Thursday, projects that as the population ages, Medicare and Medicaid costs for people with Alzheimer’s will more than double by 2030 and almost quintuple by 2050, from a level of $153 billion in 2015.

{mosads}There is currently no treatment for Alzheimer’s, a fatal disease that affects the brain and can lead to memory loss and the inability to perform tasks or speak.

“You could characterize this, in our opinion, as about the biggest healthcare crisis that people aren’t paying a lot of attention to,” said Robert Egge, the association’s chief policy officer.

The impending cost spike has spurred Congress to advance efforts to finding new treatments. The association praised the $25 million increase in funding for Alzheimer’s research in the December spending bill, which brings total funding to $591 million, though that is still short of the group’s goal of $2 billion per year.

“Congress has actually provided more than the White House has asked for, that’s pretty unusual,” Egge said. “So that shows that this message is resonating.”

The effort has found backers on both sides of the aisle.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) made funding for Alzheimer’s research a focus in his 2012 presidential campaign, elevating the issue to the race for the White House.

“I want to know, not what we can afford in the federal budget,” Gingrich said during his campaign. “I want to know what [researchers] can do if they have the resources they need to accelerate the breakthroughs to save lives and to save money.”

“I think it was helpful,” Egge said of Gingrich’s push, noting that the former speaker had worked with former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) on an Alzheimer’s study group in 2009.

“In that sense it wasn’t a surprise that Gingrich, like some other leaders on both the Republican and Democratic side, were calling for this,” Egge said.

He pointed to Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) as other champions of the issue.

Language included in the December spending bill, with backing from both parties, requires the National Institutes of Health to submit a yearly budget request for Alzheimer’s research based on what is required to fund the necessary science, a move that could lead to increased funding. The goal is to have a treatment developed by 2025.

The Alzheimer’s Association report projects that a treatment that delayed the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years would reduce Medicare costs associated with the disease by around 20 percent in the first ten years.

Without a treatment, the report projects that the percentage of the U.S. senior population with Alzheimer’s will grow from 11 percent in 2015 to 16 percent in 2050, and spending on people with Alzheimer’s will increase from 18 percent of Medicare costs in 2015 to 31 percent in 2050.

“The reality is, spending money to cure a disease like Alzheimer’s, and to find treatment, means we will save money in the long run, for the benefit of our kids and our families,” Moran said last year while accepting an award for his work to fight the disease.

“It’s easy to make the commitment, because, if we can’t find the cure and treatment for this disease, it will consume our budget in a way we cannot sustain.”

Tags Barbara Mikulski Jerry Moran Susan Collins

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