A bill that could save more than $690 million in healthcare costs by reimbursing care planning for Alzheimer's disease is gaining momentum in Congress.
The Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education (HOPE) for Alzheimer's Act earned overwhelming bipartisan support from 301 members of the House on Friday. The bill was introduced by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.).
The bill would provide Medicare coverage for care planning for patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and related dementia. Diagnosis and treatment of the disease are currently reimbursed.
If passed, the measure would decrease federal net spending by $692 million from 2016 to 2025, according to an analysis by consulting firm Healthsperien. That's especially important because costs related to care planning are expected to spike by $399 million over the next nine years, the firm reports. That growth is largely due to the increased demand for the services as more people are diagnosed and more baby boomers grow old.
Reimbursement will encourage physicians to diagnose patients and provide them with resources to implement a care plan, said Robert Egge, chief public policy officer at the Alzheimer's Association.
Only 50% of patients with Alzheimer's disease are diagnosed and only 45% of those patients are informed of their diagnosis, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Egge said physicians likely neglect to diagnosis Alzheimer's or related dementia more often because they lack time and resources to provide information and support services to patients.
A care plan usually provides patients with information on medication compliance, progression of the disease and long-term care options for the patient and their families.
Egge said care plans can prevent hospitalizations and readmissions because patients understand their long-term options. An estimated 85% of Alzheimer's patients have another chronic illness so a care plan can also help patients comply with their medications, he said.
The CMS also addressed the issue earlier this month by proposing Medicare reimbursement when primary physicians coordinate care plans.