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Alzheimer's Disease Research Investment

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. ROSKAM. Thank you very much. I want to thank you for yielding and thank the gentlewoman for yielding.

To your point, Alzheimer's is a devastating illness, and it is absolutely ravaging our Nation. Five million Americans are suffering from it, and the cost of Alzheimer's is in the billions and billions and billions of dollars. In fact, there are some estimates that suggest it will be in the trillions of dollars between 2010 and 2050.

There is some good news and there is some hopeful news that we are on the verge of some new treatments, but we need effective coordination to ensure that the money is spent on research that is being utilized effectively. The devastating cost of this disease is proof in the numbers.

Nearly 1 in 5 Medicare dollars is spent on a person with Alzheimer's and other dementias. This year, the total cost of Alzheimer's will be $214 billion, including $150 billion on Medicare and Medicaid expenditures, and this will skyrocket in the years ahead.

This is not just a dollars-and-cents issue. Yes, it is very important, and, yes, we discuss dollars and cents in this Chamber and we all bring strong feelings and strong opinions, but setting aside, for a moment, the dollars-and-cents issue, this is inextricably linked to the health of our families, to the health of our communities, and the burden that goes not just on the person who is struck with Alzheimer's, but the burden on the caregiver and the family that has to come along. It is an overwhelming thing. Frankly, it is too overwhelming to bear alone.

So we all have stories of either family members or people that we are close to or people that we knew. I think fondly of a schoolteacher and a Sunday school teacher of mine growing up who was struck down by this disease. To watch her just atrophy over the years was an incredible heartache, and to watch her family come around and love her and care for her and do everything they could to lift that burden and to bear that burden alongside from her.

Now we have an opportunity. We have an opportunity in this Chamber to do something that is transformational, that brings us all together, that brings a sense of hope and optimism and possibility about trying to wrestle this disease to the ground. What an incredible time to see the science come together in ways that transcend normal partisan politics, and we can put those things aside and really cling to this notion of giving hope to people.

I want to thank the gentleman for his leadership. I want to thank him for his attention in driving this issue and to bringing all of us together around it. I definitely, on behalf of myself and my constituents in Illinois' Sixth Congressional District, want to be part of the solution moving forward.

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Mr. ROSKAM. I am a cosponsor of both of those pieces of legislation, one authored by a Republican, one authored by a Democrat.

I think the point is there has got to be a sense of clarity. We have limited resources here. There is an incredible upside in the outyears in particular if we wrestle this disease to the ground and that notion of a holistic approach, because that is really what you are talking about. You are talking about not taking a rifle shot, not saying, well, let's do this, that, or the other thing, but, instead, take a step back, look at it in its entirety; let's use the full weight and influence of research dollars and health care dollars on the Federal side and leverage this to the best of our ability.

If you begin to think that way about some of these problems and we begin to think about, well, what is it that brings us together, there is real optimism here. Unfortunately, people look at Congress and say why can't you people get along and so forth, yet they don't see maybe some of this type of work where we are able to come together and we are able to represent constituents who are struggling mightily under this.

I think both of those bills that you referenced, I am honored to cosponsor them and to support the Members that are playing a leadership role. One of the things that you and I can do as Members of Congress is to bring attention to things and to talk to our colleagues and to lead our districts and to persuade people and try and bring people together.

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Mr. ROSKAM. Can you imagine what it would be like if, instead of waiting for this disease to wake up with a slow awakening or a realization that either you have been struck with Alzheimer's yourself or you are observing this in a loved one, if, instead, there is a day that would come in the future where there was a cure for this and you are able to anticipate it and say: Look, you don't have to walk this journey. You don't have to walk that difficulty and that turmoil and bear that burden. There is something that, based on the work that people did in 2014 and the predecessor years and all the incredible progress that has been made, that there is some day in the future. That was sort of pie-in-the-sky talk a few years ago. That is not pie in the sky anymore. That is a possibility.

If we are advancing this legislation that you referenced earlier, the legislation on a global basis that brings in worldwide partners that Congressman Smith is advocating, the cumulative effect of all of those things can lead to, really, a transformational moment.

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