A Look At Alzheimer's Health Costs

Why Alzheimer's Is So Expensive

CHICAGO, March 8 (Reuters) - Alzheimer's disease will cost the United States an estimated $200 billion in healthcare costs in 2012, and more than half of that -- $140 billion -- will be paid by Medicare and Medicaid, the Alzheimer's Association said on Thursday.

In its 2012 Facts and Figures report, the advocacy group estimates that total healthcare payments for Americans with Alzheimer's and other dementias will rise to $1.1 trillion in 2050.

More than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, a fatal, brain wasting disease. Current drugs offer temporary symptom relief, but no drugs have been found yet that can change the progression of Alzheimer's.

Here are some facts on what's driving Alzheimer's costs:

* Medicare payments for patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia are nearly three times higher than other Medicare patients, largely because the disease wipes out a patient's ability to take care of their other chronic health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease.

* The disease progresses slowly. A person 65 or older lives an average of four to eight years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and some can live as long as 20 years with the disease. For about 40 percent of the time a person has Alzheimer's, they are in the most severe stages of the disease, in which they lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation or to control their bodies.

* About 80 percent of people who die from Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia die in a nursing home, compared with 20 percent of cancer patients and 28 percent of people dying from all other causes.

* Sixty-four percent of Medicare beneficiaries age 65 and older living in a nursing home have Alzheimer's disease and other dementias.

* Caring for Alzheimer's is costly. Adult day care services cost an average of $70 per day, assisted living costs $42,000 per year and nursing home care costs from $79,000 to $87,000 per year. As a result, many patients spend down their assets far enough to qualify for Medicaid, the only public program in the United States that covers long-term care.

Source: Alzheimer's Association

(Reporting By Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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