Lawmakers, medical experts gather to discuss growing concerns of Alzheimer’s disease

At an Alzheimer’s disease conference last week, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) called on the federal government to invest in research and prevention of the disease now to avoid out-of-control cost increases for society in the future.

“It will cost us more in the long run if we don’t invest now,” Cole said. “Alzheimer’s is probably the most expensive single disease that we have with no cure.”

A recent survey by the Alzheimer’s Association suggests that, by the year 2050, nearly 50 percent of baby boomers — up to 28 million people —  will develop some form of Alzheimer’s, leading to a consumption of a quarter of all Medicare spending. Alzheimer’s advocates are warning that, if no action is taken now to prepare for this caseload influx, Medicare and the national health system will be overwhelmed with patients, casework and costs in the future.

The Alzheimer’s Accountability Act, legislation passed in late 2014, requires that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) submit a budget every year relative to their efforts to curtail the disease by 2025. The looming bill was the focus of a major panel discussion at the conference, which brought together lawmakers and Alzheimer’s experts in Washington D.C.

The Alzheimer’s Association revealed that, in order to remain ahead of the curve, Congress needs to increase NIH research funding by $300 million for the 2016 fiscal year. This would raise the total to $886 million next year.

“(Increased Alzheimer’s funding) is just common sense, and we have got to do more,” Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who serves with Cole on the House Committee on Appropriations, said.

Alzheimer’s has cost the United States an estimated $226 billion so far this year, according to the association. Based on current projections, “cumulatively, between now and 2050, it will cost $20.8 trillion, with more than half of the cost being borne by Medicare,” the Alzheimer’s Association report stated.