Congress should act on bipartisan legislation to address the devastating impact of Alzheimer's disease
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Every 65 seconds, an American develops Alzheimer’s-leaving an estimated 5.7 million individuals currently battling this debilitating disease. More than half-a-million are Floridians. Florida has the highest percentage of senior citizens of any state in the nation. Therefore, the growing number of Floridians with Alzheimer’s disease poses a unique challenge.

The risk of dementia increases with age. As Baby Boomers continue to mature, and as overall life expectancy keeps rising, Alzheimer’s is expected to become even more prevalent. In fact, by 2030 it is projected that 8.4 million Americans will have Alzheimer’s unless an effective treatment or cure is found.   

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This is extremely problematic for our nation, not just because of the emotional toll the illness has on patients and their loved ones, but because of the crippling financial impact the disease has on our country. This will only worsen as the prevalence increases. As the most expensive disease in the country, Alzheimer’s will cost the nation a staggering $277 billion in direct costs this year alone. That figure does not factor in the time of the unpaid Alzheimer’s caregivers across the nation. The average cost of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is approximately $342,000.

I know all too well the personal and financial toll this disease can also take.  Sadly, a member of my immediate family suffers from this Alzheimer’s. The impact to our family as the disease continues to progress has been profound.  

This disease has become one of the greatest threats to our nation’s public health. It is imperative that we work together to solve the problem. I’ve supported record increases in NIH funding and was proud to help secure passage of the 21st Century Cures Act. This new law streamlined the FDA approval and clinical trial process. I am also working to support the incredible and very promising research being conducted at the Byrd Institute in Tampa in conjunction with the University of South Florida. I am filled with hope for my family, and millions of families across the country, when I see the progress being made.  

There is more to be done; however, which is why I am championing critical legislation which will address the impact of Alzheimer's disease on our nation and our state. I am a proud co-sponsor of Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act (S. 2076 / H.R. 4256). This legislation has widespread bipartisan, and bicameral support. I urge my esteemed colleagues, especially those representing our great state, to join me in co-sponsorship. It is vital to get this public policy signed into law. Time is of the essence. The health of future generations, and our nation’s fiscal health is at stake.  

Bilirakis is a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.