Capito, LaHood unveil wide-ranging bill to fight Alzheimer’s disease

Bipartisan, bicameral legislation led by U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) in the Senate and U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood (R-IL) in the House would encourage early assessment and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Having lost both of my parents to Alzheimer’s, I personally know and understand how devastating this disease can be,” Sen. Capito said. “With alarming Alzheimer’s statistics growing, action at the disease’s earliest stages is needed now more than ever.” 

The Concentrating on High-Value Alzheimer’s Needs to Get to an End (CHANGE) Act of 2021, S. 1692, which Sen. Capito sponsored on May 19 with three original cosponsors, including U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), would provide better care and outcomes for Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and their caregivers, according to the text of the bill.

Additionally, the bill would accelerate progress toward prevention strategies, disease modifying treatments, and, ultimately, a cure, the text says.

“For the sake of those who will be diagnosed, we must do everything possible to find a cure,” said Sen. Wicker. “The CHANGE Act would move us in the right direction by improving access to early assessment and diagnosis, helping patients receive care earlier when it can make a bigger difference in their lives.”

If enacted, the measure would better utilize the existing Welcome to Medicare initial exam and Medicare annual wellness visits to screen, detect, and diagnose Alzheimer’s and related dementias in their earliest stages, according to a bill summary provided by Sen. Capito’s staff. 

The proposal also would establish payment measures to incentivize the detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias and discussion of appropriate care planning services, including potential for clinical trial participation, the summary says.

“By prioritizing early assessment and diagnosis, the CHANGE Act will allow patients to play a more active role in their treatment and care-planning,” said Sen. Capito.

Rep. LaHood on May 19 led 22 other original cosponsors in his chamber to introduce the companion bill, H.R. 3354, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-CA). 

“Alzheimer’s affects millions of Americans each day, and the search for a cure must be relentless,” Rep. LaHood said. “The CHANGE Act will strengthen existing tools within Medicare to help streamline and broaden the ability for earlier diagnosis of dementia. As a strong advocate in Congress to find an end to Alzheimer’s, I will continue to work to find ways to support patients and their families.”

Organizations supporting the legislation include the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alliance for Aging Research, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, the Jewish Federation of North America, the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, among many others.