UsAgainstAlzheimer’s Hails Increasing Attention by Congress on Alzheimer’s and Momentum for CHANGE Act
UsA2 calls for continued action on key priorities for patients, providers and payers
Washington, D.C. (November 20, 2019) – UsAgainstAlzheimer’s today applauded the increasing attention on Alzheimer’s disease by Congress and urged passage of federal legislation to improve early detection and diagnosis of the disease.
“There are promising signs in the fight against Alzheimer’s, but we have to keep the momentum going,” said George Vradenburg, chairman and co-founder of UsAgainstAlzheimer’s. “Growing interest for early detection and diagnosis needs to be turned into passage of the CHANGE Act; bipartisan support for increased federal funding for Alzheimer’s research must be continued in the 2020 appropriations bill; and hopeful signs of progress in therapies to treat early stages of the disease must be reviewed quickly but thoroughly by federal regulators.”
This afternoon, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) spoke about the need for stronger federal law to increase early detection of Alzheimer’s during a hearing of the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care, which centered on barriers to Alzheimer’s diagnosis, treatment and care coordination.
Only 16 percent of seniors have regular cognitive assessments during their routine annual health checkups, Stabenow said, adding that passage of the CHANGE Act would fix that problem.
Sens. Stabenow and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) are the lead Senate sponsors of the CHANGE Act, which would incentivize and equip healthcare providers with the tools they need to accurately detect and diagnose Alzheimer’s at its earliest stages – the stages where something can be done.
The CHANGE Act requires testing for cognitive impairment or progression of cognitive impairment in both the “Welcome to Medicare” initial exam and annual Medicare wellness visits using assessment tools identified by the National Institutes of Health. If cognitive impairment or progression of cognitive impairment is detected, patients would be referred for additional diagnostic services to specialists trained in diagnosis or treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, community-based support services and appropriate clinical trials.
Dr. Jason Karlawish, a professor of medicine, medical ethics and health policy, and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania, said that one way to increase cognitive testing during annual medical appointments is to ensure that Medicare and private insurance companies reimburse doctors for the time spent doing these tests.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), another co-sponsor of the CHANGE Act, spoke emotionally about the 18 years his mother had Alzheimer’s and the family’s work to care for her during that time. Menendez said the nation must do more to help people living with Alzheimer’s and their families.
The importance of passing the CHANGE Act was also highlighted at a November 14 hearing by the House Ways & Means Committee.
There is growing support for brain health checkups. A recent op-ed by four former surgeons general supported making a brain checkup part of routine medical care and establishing a baseline for one’s cognitive capacity. In addition, the American Association of Neurology has recommended screening for cognitive impairment at age 65, arguing that many causes of cognitive impairment can be treated and that those causes related to Alzheimer’s can be slowed or prevented with lifestyle interventions or medical management of co-occurring conditions.
Alzheimer’s is the only top-10 cause of death in America without an effective treatment or cure. About 5.8 million Americans are living with this disease, and the number is expected to balloon to 14 million by 2050 unless there is a treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s.
“Alzheimer’s is the top public health crisis of our time,” Vradenburg said in comments submitted to the Senate panel. “UsAgainstAlzheimer’s and others throughout our movement are seeking a national and global response to Alzheimer’s equal to the attention and urgency given to AIDS, cancer and climate change. I hope it leads to the day when we finally eliminate the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. For patients, for caregivers, for families and for our nation, the stakes are too high to accept anything less than complete victory over this disease.”
About UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2)
UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2) is a disruptive advocacy and research-focused organization that is pressing for greater resources and speed in the development of and access to effective interventions for the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. UsA2’s transformative programming is laser-focused on fostering brain health across the lifespan and assuring that the voice and insights of those affected by the disease are heard, including, importantly, communities of color and low income.