Smith: ‘Congress must let those suffering know that we stand with them’

WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) announced that his bill, the “Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer’s Act,” has earned the bipartisan support of a monumental 301 members of Congress. Smith, co-founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Task Force on Alzheimer’s Disease, introduced HOPE to provide Medicare coverage for a care planning session for patients newly-diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, family caregivers or legal representatives.

I am greatly encouraged that HOPE has earned the bipartisan support of 301 of my colleagues in the House. 5.4 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and countless more family members and loved ones suffer with them. It’s important for them to know that Congress stands with them and I am immensely proud of this strong showing of bipartisan support for Alzheimer’s patients. This is an important marker of congressional will in the effort to provide Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers with the care and resources they deserve, but we must continue to work diligently to ensure that Alzheimer’s patients receive a permanent care planning benefit,” Smith said.

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.”

Specifically, the HOPE Act would 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. A similar proposal was recently proposed by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a temporary one-year trial.

It is our moral imperative to support individuals with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. We have an obligation to care for our citizens as they age and we must support them as they struggle to face the challenges of this disease,” said Smith.

Not only would the care planning benefit authorized in the HOPE Act and now also proposed by CMS improve health outcomes for Alzheimer’s patients, it is also expected to mitigate huge, unnecessary costs associated with preventable trips to hospitals and emergency rooms. This is especially important given the state of Medicare and Alzheimer’s place as the most expensive disease in America.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2016 alone, direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $236 billion, with just under half of the costs borne by Medicare. A cost estimate commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Association and conducted by Healthsperien, a Washington, D.C.-based health care consulting firm, indicated that as a result of Smith’s legislation, net federal health spending would decrease by $692 million over the 10-year period.