As the number of Alzheimer’s disease patients continues to grow, it could put significant strain on Medicare and Medicaid, as the condition is extremely costly to treat, according to a new report.
Members of the expansive baby boomer generation are reaching the high-risk age bracket for degenerative brain conditions like Alzheimer’s, which will likely swell the number of diagnoses, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report (PDF).
Between now and 2050, the number of people that are newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is expected to grow by 110%, from about 454,000 new cases to more than 950,000. Over that same period, the number of people over the age of 65 with the disease is expected to nearly triple, increasing from about 5.3 million patients to 13.8 million.
The total annual payments for caring for individuals living with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, meanwhile, will grow to $259 billion in 2017—the first year it will surpass a quarter of a trillion dollars. Medicare and Medicaid cover about a third of those costs for eligible patients, or a total of about $175 billion. By 2050, those costs could grown to more than $1.1 trillion, according to the report. Medicare typically pays out three times as much for a patient with Alzheimer’s as it would for one without the disease, about $23,000 a year compared to about $7,000.
“As the number of people with Alzheimer’s continues to grow, so do the impact and cost of providing care,” Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services for the Alzheimer’s Association, said in announcement (PDF). “While we’ve seen recent increases in federal research funding and access to critical care planning and support services, there’s still an urgent need to support research that can bring us closer to effective treatment options and, ultimately, a cure.”
Alzheimer’s patients must be able to effectively manage their care to keep healthcare costs low, but one in 10 experience preventable hospital stays. Another area of concern: Fewer than half of patients with Alzheimer’s are told by their doctor that they have the disease, which makes it harder for them and their families to plan for future care.