Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Cochairman of the Bipartisan, Bicameral Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer's Disease, today announced the introduction of the "Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer"s Act" of 2015. Smith's legislation will provide Medicare coverage for a care planning session for patients newly-diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, family caregivers or legal representatives.
"Upon receiving an Alzheimer's diagnosis, patients and their families are frequently at a loss for how to effectively plan for the next stage of their lives," said Smith. "While Medicare currently covers a diagnostic evaluation for beneficiaries, the program then offers little support in terms of next steps. I believe it is vital that patients and caregivers have an individualized plan to cope, information on available resources and a path forward.
"I am grateful for the support of the Task Forces' Co-chairs--Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Chaka Fattah (D-PA)--and our co-leads-- Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)--all of whom are committed to helping move this important legislation forward," Smith continued.
Specifically, the HOPE Act will provide coverage of a care planning session for Medicare beneficiaries where the individual, their caregiver or legal representative will receive information about medical and non-medical treatments to plan for their future care.
Smith's bill requires stakeholder engagement on scope and elements of what constitutes "care planning services," allowing for initial and future input from outside stakeholders like physicians, non-physician practitioners, and patient advocacy groups. The HOPE for Alzheimer's Act will also provide for an outreach initiative on this benefit to instruct healthcare providers and supply them with materials on appropriate care planning.
The legislation ensures transparency and accountability by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report to Congress on the steps they are taking to satisfy the outreach requirement, as well as requiring annual reports on the HOPE for Alzheimer's Act benefit utilization, including recommendations on eliminating barriers to access.
"When they know of the challenges awaiting them and the resources available to help them, individuals and their caregivers can more effectively manage treatment of the disease," Smith said.
With the goal of expanding the Task Forces' reach, this Congress Reps. Smith and Waters asked two Congressmen to join them as additional cochairmen given their history of advocacy for better federal policies addressing the needs of Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers.
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA):
"I am proud to join with my colleague, Congressman Chris Smith, to reintroduce the HOPE for Alzheimer's Act. This bill will give Medicare patients and their families access to information about options for medical care and support when they face the challenge of an Alzheimer's diagnosis. It will improve patient care by allowing families to make informed decisions and plan for their care and treatment needs."
Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA):
"While we continue our efforts to increase federal funding for brain research that will lead to future cures and treatments for Alzheimer's disease, in near-term we must also work to improve the care and planning resources available as patients and their families receive news of a diagnosis. I am a proud sponsor of the HOPE Act, bipartisan legislation that makes great strides towards easing the burden as Medicare patients and their families grapple with the effects of Alzheimer's. This bill recognizes the hardships and uncertainty that these patients face at the time of diagnosis and seeks to provide the necessary tools and support that will ultimately lead to a better quality of life. I commend the continued work of my Task Force colleagues in pushing for policies that bring deserved attention to Alzheimer's."
Smith also commended the three Members who agreed to co-lead the bill, for their work and support:
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL):
"I'm pleased to help introduce the HOPE for Alzheimer's Act, a critical advancement for the Alzheimer's community in ensuring effective diagnosis is paired with the delivery of information for patients and their families to assist with care planning and disease management. More than 5 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer's disease, and that number will continue to rise as nearly 10,000 baby boomers age into Medicare on a daily basis--it is critical we ensure the newly diagnosed and caregivers have access to resources for care and support."
Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY):
"Long-term caregiver support and quality care planning is critical to providing the best outcomes for Alzheimer's patients and families, and the HOPE Act will help us to boost these efforts and ensure that proper documentation is made to better coordinate care. In addition to the toll it takes on our loved ones, Alzheimer's costs our nation billions -- including $153 billion in Medicare and Medicaid dollars. It is well past time for Congress to provide support to our health care professionals to treat and ultimately cure this disease. I thank Congressman Smith for his commitment on this issue and look forward to working with him to ensure this bill becomes law in the 114th Congress."
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR):
"The reason I founded and co-chair the Neuroscience Caucus is in part to promote better care for those whose lives are affected by neurological diseases. The HOPE for Alzheimer's Act is no exception. We are facing a tidal wave of Alzheimer's disease and dementia in our future, and we need a system in place that educates and prepares those families and individuals diagnosed. The HOPE for Alzheimer's Act is a promising step forward to ensuring improved results for those living with Alzheimer's, and I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation."