The Medicare Trustees Report released today in Washington, D.C., makes it clear that we must act quickly to stave off unsustainable costs to Medicare. We must take the necessary steps now to protect Medicare for future generations. In just three short years, the first wave of baby boomers become eligible for Medicare – and according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2008 Facts and Figures Report released a week ago today, 10 million of these baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Medicare currently spends more than three times as much for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias than for the average Medicare beneficiary. In 2005, Medicare spent $91 billion on beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias and is projected to spend $160 billion by 2010 and $189 billion by 2015. Experts predict that by 2010 there will be nearly a half million new cases of Alzheimer’s disease each year and a million new cases each year by 2050.
With one out of eight baby boomers at risk for developing this disease – there is no clearer, predictable public health crisis facing the United States today, yet lawmakers have developed no plan to deal with this crisis. This is why the Alzheimer’s Association took out ads last week in prominent newspapers asking each of the three presidential candidates: “What is your plan?” |
The most significant way to reduce Medicare costs now and in the future is to immediately increase the investment in federally-funded medical Alzheimer research. Within five years of the start of effective disease-modifying treatments that can delay onset and slow progression of the disease, the projected annual Medicare and Medicaid spending would decline by more than $60 billion, with potentially even larger savings every year thereafter. Yet federal funding for Alzheimer’s and other medical research has been flat or declining in the last five years.
This should be setting off alarm bells in Washington. Accelerating research would be a most prudent investment of federal dollars – for millions of retiring baby boomers, and for the viability of Medicare trust funds. Effective treatments for Alzheimer’s can save millions of lives and billions of dollars for Medicare and the Medicare Trustees Report is a further indicator that time is of the essence.