Medicare claims for Alzheimer's disease skyrocket 250 percent


Studies describe devastating international cost of Alzheimer's disease.

PHILADELPHIA, July 19, 2004 The rate of Medicare beneficiaries identified as having Alzheimer's disease rose 250 percent during the 1990s, according to a study reported at The 9th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders (ICAD), presented by the Alzheimer's Association. This and three other studies suggest that Alzheimer's disease is the public health crisis of the 21st century as diagnosis and awareness of Alzheimer's disease increases.

"Unless a prevention or cure is found soon, Alzheimer's disease will overwhelm our already stretched health care system and bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid," said Sheldon Goldberg, president and CEO, Alzheimer's Association. "Medicare expenditures for people with Alzheimer's are almost three times higher than the average for all beneficiaries. The cost to Medicare will rise 55 percent to $50 billion in less than 10 years and the cost to Medicaid will soar by 80 percent, to $33 billion."

The Medicare claims study, by P. Murali Doraiswamy M.D., Donald H. Taylor Jr., Ph.D., and Frank Sloan, Ph.D. at Duke University, analyzed data from approximately 30,000 Medicare beneficiaries from 1991 to 1999. The study showed an increase in Alzheimer's disease for all groups studied, but particularly among African Americans, among whom identification increased by 460 percent.

"The good news is these Medicare claims are telling us that African-Americans are receiving better access to care and are being properly diagnosed, especially African-American women who historically don't see physicians regularly," said Taylor, associate director of public policy at Duke. "The bad news is there will be an increase in treatment costs and more overall pressure on the Medicare system."

According to the Alzheimer's Association, as baby boomers enter the age of greatest risk the number of new cases will increase by nearly 1 million each year. The total number of people with the disease will explode from an estimated 4.5 million today to as many as 16 million by 2050. Current national direct and indirect costs of caring for individuals with Alzheimer's have reached at least $100 billion, according to estimates used by the Association and the National Institute of Aging.

Another study presented at ICAD, by Henry A. Glick, Ph.D., School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, examined the costs of care during the 15-year period after a person has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. The data, from approximately 1,600 patients, analyzed the years of institutional care, hours of paid and informal care, and discounted costs of paid community, institutional and medical care. The results showed:

  • The average cost per year to care for a man with Alzheimer's was approximately $9,710.
  • The average cost per year to care for a woman with Alzheimer's was approximately $16,327 almost twice as high as men. This is attributed to longer life expectancies, spending more time in institutions, and having more hours of paid and informal care.
  • The cost of care in the later stages of the disease was substantially greater than the costs in earlier stages of the disease.

    "We need more money invested for basic and clinical Alzheimer research," said Glick. "Discovering methods to treat Alzheimer's that are substantially more effective or less costly not only will improve the quality of life of those with Alzheimer's, but will also lower health care costs."

    A study presented by Shalini L. Kulasingam, Ph.D., and colleagues at Duke University Medical Center, also found that costs rise dramatically as Alzheimer's disease progresses. In a review of published studies tracking annual medical costs at different stages of disease severity, the researchers found that direct costs alone for individuals in the advanced stages were 60 to 200 percent higher than for those with mild Alzheimer's.

    The cost of care for those with Alzheimer's isn't only a concern in the United States. A study by Arthur Zbrozek, M.S. of Wyeth Research and colleagues showed that the total annual cost for formal dementia care across Europe is approximately $104 billion (87.22 billion Euros).

    To expedite effective treatment and prevention of Alzheimer's, the Alzheimer's Association calls for:

  • $1 billion in annual federal funding for Alzheimer research.
  • Changing the way Americans think about Alzheimer's. The Association is asking Americans to "Maintain Your Brain" learn more about what is known about Alzheimer's; understand how managing lifestyle risk factors can improve brain health, and join the Association in advocating for a renewed commitment to research and improved care for those with Alzheimer's.
  • Establishing a targeted chronic care benefit within Medicare to control the high costs of care for beneficiaries with dementia and other complex chronic conditions.
  • Enhancing care and support services for persons with Alzheimer's by assuring that research findings are translated into improved care and treatments for patients.

    Source: Eurekalert & others

    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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