FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | November 19, 2009
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Applauds Inclusion of Cognitive Impairment Detection in Healthcare Reform
NEW YORK, NY—Eric J. Hall, president and chief executive officer of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA), issued the following statement regarding the inclusion of cognitive impairment detection as part of the new annual wellness visit for Medicare beneficiaries in “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” that was introduced last night:
“On behalf of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, and our more than 1,200 member organizations, we thank United States Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NE), Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), who spearheaded the provision, for including ‘detection of any cognitive impairment’ as a component of the new annual wellness visit for Medicare beneficiaries in ‘The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.’
"AFA originally advocated for inclusion of cognitive screening back in May when the Senate Finance Committee released its second policy options paper. AFA pressed for screening in light of the escalating incidence of Alzheimer’s disease among aging Americans and mounting evidence that early diagnosis of memory problems is critical to appropriate treatment, behavioral interventions and support services.
"Early detection of memory problems is one of AFA’s major national initiatives, and the Senate health reform language comes on the heels of our annual National Memory Screening Day (NMSD). This past Tuesday more than 2,200 sites nationwide offered free confidential memory screenings to an estimated 54,000 participants, as well as follow-up resources and educational materials about dementia and successful aging. AFA additionally posts community screenings held by local organizations throughout the year at www.nationalmemoryscreening.org.
"A memory screening can serve as a routine, cost-worthy evaluation for primary care physicians to promote early detection of cognitive impairment. A memory screening is a simple and safe evaluation tool that assesses memory and other intellectual functions. The results do not represent a diagnosis, but individuals with below-normal scores or who still have concerns are strongly encouraged to follow up for a full medical examination. V alidated memory screening instruments are shown to demonstrate 80 to 90 percent or higher accuracy in reviewed studies—similar to other established screening tests such as mammography and Pap smear.
"AFA believes this groundbreaking provision is a major step forward toward elevating the issue of memory problems as well as Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias to the stature it deserves. Unlike cancer and heart disease, Medicare currently offers no benefit for early identification of memory problems or Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. The provision for ‘detection of any cognitive impairment’ is included in a section of the Senate bill that would give Medicare beneficiaries access to an annual wellness visit, including a comprehensive health risk assessment to identify chronic diseases, injury risks, modifiable risk f actors and urgent health needs.
"It is widely recognized that physicians and other healthcare professionals currently do not suspect dementia often enough. It is unacceptable to leave the disease undetected to the extent it is now when there are safe tools available that can lead to an increase in earlier discovery. We can do better and we applaud Majority Leader Reid, Chairman Baucus and Senator Carper for showing us that it can and should be done."
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a nonprofit organization based in New York City that focuses on providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, and their families, and unites 1,200 member organizations nationwide that provide hands-on programs. AFA’s services include a toll-free hot line with counseling by licensed social workers, a free caregiver magazine, a National Memory Screening Day initiative and the AFA Quilt to Remember. For information, call 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
Contact: Carol Steinberg