In a bipartisan initiative to assist the millions of Americans afflicted by Alzheimer's disease, Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.), House Co-Chairs of the Bipartisan, Bicameral Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, introduced the Health Outcomes, Planning and Education (H.O.P.E.) for Alzheimer's Act, H.R. 1386, on Wednesday, April 6. The intent of the bill is to increase diagnosis of the disease and other forms of dementia, and to help get the latest information to new Alzheimer's patients and their families as early as possible.
H.R. 1386 provides Medicare coverage for comprehensive diagnoses of Alzheimer's disease to ensure that patients who have symptoms of Alzheimer's receive a formal diagnosis from their physician as part of their medical record, to foster better and expedited care and reduce costs by offering information and resources to newly diagnosed patients and their families.
"Often family members notice the symptoms of Alzheimer's in their loved ones but it's only years later that a doctor formally diagnoses the disease," said Rep. Markey. "We need to streamline the diagnosis process, educate our nurses and primary caregivers, and ensure family members are included in conversations about treatments and resources. Early diagnosis can help patients and families avoid crises and complications while reducing costs for the federal government."
In January, another Smith-Markey bill, the National Alzheimer's Project Act (N.A.P.A.) was signed into law, creating the National Alzheimer's Project to coordinate government-wide efforts to prevent and treat the disease and create a national strategy for defeating Alzheimer's.
"I am pleased to join my friend Ed Markey in introducing the H.O.P.E. for Alzheimer's Act to give victims of Alzheimer's and their families desperately needed help to confront this dreaded disease," said Rep. Smith. "Documentation of a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease is critical to effectively cope with this debilitating disease, which patient's often suffer in addition to other serious health conditions. Health care planning services provided under this Act, including available treatments and support services, will help equip individuals and families to face the difficult years ahead -- an average of four to eight years after diagnosis."
Many individuals with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias have not been properly diagnosed. Some studies show that less than one-in-five people with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia had the diagnosis in their primary care medical record, a signicant problem to identify and treat patients during the early stages of the diseases to appropriate care and services. Research has also indicated positive results stemming from early information and support, including better care and more use of needed community resources, as well as fewer behavioral and psychiatric symptoms and less stress and depression for family caregivers. It is estimated that 5.4 million have Alzheimer's today, with more than 13 million Americans predicted have the disease by 2050.
Advocate organizations for Alzheimer's patients such as The Alzheimer's Association, Alzheimer's Foundation, Cure Alzheimer's Fund and UsAgainstAlzheimer's have endorsed the bill.
Markey is the lead Democrat and sponsor of the bill, and Smith is the Republican lead. (To view Markey's full release click here.) Other original co-sponsors include Representatives Michael Burgess (R-TX) and Jim McDermott (D-WA), as well as Rep. Bordallo (D- Guam), Rep. Christensen (D-VI), Rep. Grijalva (D-AZ), and Rep. Deutch (D-FL), Rep. Pierluisi (D-PR).