Bipartisan Alzheimer’s Beneficiary and Caregiver Support Act Introduced in Senate and House

Bicameral bill to help support Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers, reduce growing burden of treatment costs on federal health programs

Thursday, July 07, 2016

U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), along with U.S. Representatives Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), today introduced new bipartisan, bicameral legislation to support Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers, and lessen the mounting costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias on federal health programs.

More than 15 million Americans are serving as a family caregiver to a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, providing nearly 18 billion hours of unpaid care annually. These caregivers face a great deal of stress and other physical, financial and emotional challenges, which can lead to patients prematurely entering into long-term care. The Alzheimer’s Beneficiary and Caregiver Support Act calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to test whether providing Alzheimer’s disease caregiver support services can help keep patients in the home setting for longer periods of time, resulting in lower Medicare and Medicaid program costs.

“Alzheimer's is a heartbreaking disease that affects the entire family,” said Senator Stabenow. “For the half million caregivers and 185,000 Alzheimer's patients in Michigan, we are working to make sure that more people affected by Alzheimer's can stay in their homes and with their families longer. Today's bill is an important step towards reducing the burden of care and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and the House to move this forward.”

“Having recently shared in the caregiving of parents with Alzheimer’s, I understand the difficulties that caregivers face and the significant costs involved,” said Senator Capito. “As of 2015, there were 108,000 Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers who provided 123 million total hours of unpaid care across West Virginia – that unpaid care is valued at more than $1.5 billion. With 37,000 West Virginians currently living with Alzheimer’s, and the Medicaid costs for treating Alzheimer’s in West Virginia totaling $368 million, we must pursue solutions like the Alzheimer’s Beneficiary and Caregiver Support Act to help ease the burden on patients, caregivers and federal health programs.”

“Nearly 5% of all Americans provide home care to a parent or relative‎ with Alzheimer's or dementia. They do so out of love, compassion, and kindness – and God bless them for their sacrifices. We, as lawmakers, must do more to support the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of home care-giving. I'm proud to introduce the Alzheimer's Beneficiary and Caregiver Support Act as a first step to meet that responsibility,” said Congressman Roskam.

“I am proud to introduce the Alzheimer’s Beneficiary and Caregiver Support Act which will provide support services for caregivers of people living with Alzheimer’s and related dementia. As someone whose parents suffer from this devastating illness, I am acutely aware of the pain and hardship that Alzheimer’s disease inflicts on families all across this country. Studies have shown that providing support to caregivers improves their capability to take care for their loved ones and keeps more Alzheimer’s patients in their own home. This bill addresses a critical need in our health care system and will finally provide help to those who care for our loved ones,” said Congresswoman Sánchez.

The Alzheimer’s Beneficiary and Caregiver Support Act is modeled after the New York University Caregiver Intervention (NYUCI) and similar programs across the country and the world, including at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The NYUCI consists of individual and family counseling, participation in a caregiver support group, and ad-hoc counseling via telephone for caregivers and families managing the many challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. For more than 25 years, this program has been shown to delay long-term care admission by more than a year-and-a-half and to improve caregiver health and well-being. 

Given this promising body of evidence and the mounting cost and burdens on federal health programs from Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, it is essential to examine this intervention and determine its potential impact on Medicare and Medicaid. The Alzheimer’s Beneficiary and Caregiver Support Act will provide us with these needed answers.