Bridging the Divide
Two weeks ago, Americans went to the polls and voted to maintain the current balance of power in the federal government. President Obama was re-elected for a second term, Republicans will continue to have the majority in the House of Representatives, and Democrats will continue to have the majority in the Senate. When the new Congress is sworn-in this upcoming January, there will be 84 new members of the House - 49 Democrats and 35 Republicans - and 12 new members of the Senate - 8 Democrats, 3 Republicans, and 1 Independent.
In this environment many topics on Capitol Hill become divisive "Democrat vs. Republican" issues, which is one of the reasons why the approval rating for Congress is so low. This is not always the case, however, and fortunately we, together, have helped keep support for action on Alzheimer's disease a bipartisan cause. Caring for people with Alzheimer's has cost our nation an estimated $200 billion this year alone so it's clear that there’s no place for partisanship with Alzheimer's, an issue which affects nearly every American.
We have seen Congress put politics aside to unanimously pass the National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) in 2010, and members from both sides of the aisle have signed on to cosponsor the HOPE for Alzheimer's Act and the Alzheimer's Breakthrough Act. The Alzheimer's Association will continue working in a bipartisan manner for the remainder of this Congress, just as we will for the next Congress as well.
In the past, the federal government has prioritized research for a number of diseases, leading to dramatic reductions in the number of deaths attributable to those conditions. Between 2000 and 2008 the death rates for people with conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and HIV/AIDs has dropped by an average of 21 percent, while death rates for Alzheimer's rose by 66 percent during the same period. Clearly, investments in Alzheimer's disease research now can have a meaningful impact on the future of this disease.
Earlier this year the President submitted a budget request for $80 million in additional research at the National Institutes of Health in the 2013 fiscal year budget. As NIH readies it's budget for the coming year, please contact the Director of the NIH to urge prioritization of funding for Alzheimer's disease research. This critical investment will go a long way toward raising the profile of Alzheimer’s disease in the medical research community.
Using Personal Connections For Policy Change
Our nationwide network of advocates like you work hand-in-hand with local Alzheimer's Association staff to plan and attend meetings with Federal, state and local officials. Whether you'd prefer to drop by your member's district office or attend our annual Advocacy Forum in D.C., your interactions with elected officials are vital to our advocacy efforts. Through a handshake, a shared story and an impassioned request, you are making Alzheimer’s a priority on Capitol Hill.
Are you interested in meeting with your elected officials? Reach out to your local Alzheimer's Association staff for more information on how you can get involved.
A Proposed Resolution
For years Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s have been told Medicare will not cover specific services because their underlying condition will not improve, citing what has been known as the “Medicare improvement standard”. That standard requires beneficiaries to recover or improve as a result of certain therapy services. Therapies, such as occupational and speech/language therapies, have been shown to help those with Alzheimer’s disease maintain some level of functional capacity. But lack of access to those treatments can hasten their decline and accelerate the need for more expensive services, such as hospitalizations or placement in a nursing home.
The Alzheimer’s Association has advocated for years on behalf of the Alzheimer’s community to ensure access to these important services. On October 16, the two sides in the Jimmo v. Sebelius class action lawsuit reached a settlement that would effectively end the practice of applying the improvement standard to payment decisions. The Alzheimer’s Association is encouraged by the agreement. We will continue to monitor the status of the settlement and keep you informed.