Introduction of the Health Outcomes, Planning and Education Act (HOPE) for Alzheimer's

Floor Speech

By:  Ed Markey
Date: April 6, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. MARKEY. Mr. Speaker, I rise today along with my fellow co-chair of the bipartisan Alzheimer's Task Force Mr. SMITH (R-NJ) and colleagues Rep. MCDERMOTT (D-WA), BURGESS (R-TX), BORDALLO (D-GU), CHRISTENSEN (D-VI), GRIJALVA (D-AZ) and PIERLUISI (D-PR) to introduce the bipartisan Health Outcomes, Planning and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer's Act.

One in eight Americans over 65--or 5.4 million individuals--have Alzheimer's disease. Unless science finds a way to prevent or cure it, over 13 million Americans will have Alzheimer's disease by the year 2050.

The HOPE Act aims to improve the way we diagnosis Alzheimer's disease and other dementias and provide important information about care and treatment for patients and their families. The bill provides Medicare coverage for comprehensive diagnoses of Alzheimer's disease to guarantee that seniors who show signs of Alzheimer's can receive a formal diagnosis from their doctor and that this diagnosis is documented in their medical record. The bill would also improve care and reduce costs by providing information and resources to newly diagnosed patients and their families by including, for the first time, caregivers in discussions with doctors and patients.

At present, most people with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias have not received an official diagnosis. Data from a report done by the Alzheimer's Association found only 19 percent of people over age 65 with dementia had a diagnosis documented in their medical record. African American and Hispanic populations, at higher risk for Alzheimer's disease than whites, are even less likely to have been diagnosed.

Early diagnoses can help individuals receive treatments early, when medications are more likely to be effective, and they allow patients to participate in clinical trials to benefit from cutting edge research. With an early diagnosis, patients can prepare for the oncoming symptoms of the disease with their doctors and caregivers. Ultimately, this can bring down Medicare costs by helping patients better manage other preexisting medical conditions and avoid crises.

Each year, the federal government spends $93 billion out of Medicare, or almost 20% of the entire Medicare budget, to care for Alzheimer's patients. This money pays for hospitalizations, doctor's visits, and drugs associated with the disease. Facilitating conversations with doctors and caregivers and providing resources for families can help mitigate the number of hospitalizations and complications for patients with the disease.

While we work here in Congress to invest more funding for Alzheimer's research to find a cure, we must continue to help the families who have been impacted by this devastating disease. This bipartisan legislation is a good step toward ensuring these important measures are taken.

The Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Foundation, Cure Alzheimer's Fund, and UsAgainstAlzheimer's have endorsed our legislation, which will increase the likelihood that Alzheimer's will be diagnosed sooner and help families plan for the necessary treatments and care. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on this important issue throughout the legislative process.