There are over 23,000 individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease in Rhode Island, and over 53,000 caregivers that support and take care of them. There are benefits available through a Medicare billing code, which allows clinicians to be reimbursed for providing a comprehensive set of care planning services to those who are cognitively impaired and those caregivers who are with them. Fewer than 1% of seniors living with Alzheimer’s disease received the care planning benefit last year, and this very low number shows that both providers and patients are not aware of its existence.
Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse have joined their colleagues in the U.S. Senate as co-sponsors of the bipartisan Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act, which would require clinicians to educate Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers about the Medicare benefits available to those eligible in order to provide more access to those in need.
The Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act builds on the care planning benefit by addressing the low usage of the benefit. Specifically, the Improving HOPE for Alzheimer’s Act would require Health and Human Services to:
Educate clinicians on care planning services available under Medicare and on the care planning billing code.
Report on the barriers to individuals receiving care planning services and how the rate of usage can be increased.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, care planning allows diagnosed individuals and their caregivers to learn about medical and non-medical treatments, clinical trials, and support services available in the community. Individuals receiving dementia-specific care planning have fewer hospitalizations, fewer emergency room visits, and better medication management. Alzheimer’s and related dementias complicate the management of other chronic conditions. Care planning is key to care coordination.
Our senators should be thanked for their leadership in this regard for trying to support those impacted by this disease that currently has no cure.
Donna M. McGowan
The writer is executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association Rhode Island Chapter.