After the fiasco that occurred in Congress last month, Congress has once again has put off the discussions on tackling Medicare and Medicaid reform to another day.  Eventually our representatives will need to finalize a budget, and Medicare and Medicaid changes should be part of budget negotiations.  Why?  Look no further than the recent studies that have been published on dementia care.             

Recent studies have shown that dementia care is the most costly chronic disease in the country.  According to a study published in the April edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, the cost of caring for dementia patients has reached $109 billion annually, exceeding that for heart disease and cancer, and will double by the time the youngest baby boomers reach their 70s.  Additionally, a recent study by the World Alzheimer Report found that cognitive impairment is the strongest predictor of who will move into a care facility within the next two years, 7.5 times more likely than people with cancer, heart disease or other chronic ailments of older adults.

The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, is the law of the land.  However, the law does not truly address how we, as a country will be able to pay and care for our increasingly elderly population.

The federal Commission on Long-Term Care was an attempt by Congress to address the future of long-term care financing and care in the US.  On September 30, 2013, the Commission published its report to Congress.  As a professional who regularly deals with long-term care financing issues, I was quite frustrated by reading the Commission’s report (Read the Report Here) delivered to Congress.  The report, for the most part, deals with long-term care financing around the edges, without truly addressing the growing crisis.

Congress is apparently under the belief that health care reform and fixing the nation’s long-term care system should be treated separately.  The fact is that in order to provide the proper reform, health care reform cannot be separated from the discussion on long-term care.  Congress must take this into consideration now when it is about to begin a debate on both Medicare and Medicaid funding during the budget negotiations.

Long-term care should be an important part of the current discussion.  We, as a nation, must do more to deal with the increasing burden of dementia and cognitive impairment.  Until we do, we will be short changing ourselves when dealing with real health care reform.

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