Over 3.4 million Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer’s disease will now have access to a Medicare prescription drug benefit.
In November 2003, the108th Congress approved the biggest changes to Medicare since its creation in 1965, including a new prescription drug benefit. The new changes also provide for some assistance with care coordination for people with chronic conditions and coverage of preventive services.
Medicare beneficiaries are now eligible to sign up for a new Medicare-approved prescription drug discount card. The benefit offers substantial savings and, for low-income beneficiaries, there is an additional $600 transitional assistance benefit.
Annual prescription drug costs for people with Alzheimer’s are estimated at $3,000, three times the average cost for the average Medicare beneficiaries. This high cost is due to the fact that people with Alzheimer's disease often rely on prescription medications to help manage the behavioral symptoms of the disease. In addition, Medicare beneficiaries with Alzheimer's disease also have from other co-morbid conditions (cancer, diabetes, osteoarthritis) that are treated with prescription drugs.
The future of Medicare depends upon finding ways to manage chronic disease and disability to drive down the costs of avoidable acute care crises and excess disability.
The Alzheimer's Association supported the historic legislation passed by Congress. We call on Congress to continue to improve Medicare to meet the health needs of all beneficiaries with Alzheimer's disease by providing meaningful coverage to assure that all beneficiaries have access to affordable and high quality health care.
The Alzheimer's Association supported this historic bill because it will provide relief to the millions of Americans dealing with Alzheimer’s disease, many of whom suffer from other health issues.
In areas where the bill fell short, the Association has already begun working with Congress and other advocacy groups to address these issues and to oversee the implementation of the new drug benefit. The Alzheimer's Association is a lead member of the Access to Benefits Coalition, www.accesstobenefits.org, which is dedicated to enrolling low-income beneficiaries, and will support chapter efforts to address questions from the public.