Alzheimer’s a looming tax issueGa. state senator wants to prepare

Alzheimer’s disease

It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.; one in eight older Americans has Alzheimer’s disease.

It affects many families and family income: more than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.

Care costs are rising dramatically, estimated to be $200 billion nationwide in 2012. Because of the increasing number of older Americans, payments for health care, long-term care and hospice care are projected to rise to $1.1 trillion in 2050.

Medicare and Medicaid pay for about 70 percent of those costs.

Source: The Alzheimer’s Association, a 2012 report

State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, hopes to prepare Georgia for an expected rise in Alzheimer’s patients.

Taxpayers will have to bear a significant rise in treatment costs because many patients will depend on Medicaid or Medicare for help.

“We are one of 16 states in the nation that does not have a statewide plan,” said Unterman, a nurse who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

She filed Senate Bill 14, which will be debated this year. The law, if passed, will start a cooperative effort by various state departments to create plans for dealing with the expected surge in cases of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

“The reason the plan is so crucial is that we really don’t know how many people in Georgia have Alzheimer’s, and there’s no way you can know the budgetary process in future — how much money you need — especially with the baby boomers coming along,” she said.

Baby boomers, who are beginning to retire and will create a huge bulge of elderly people in coming years, have saved and invested, but savings can be soon depleted by expensive medical and nursing care. When the money is exhausted, they will turn to government medical programs for help.

Alzheimer’s robs those suffering from it of their ability to remember, converse and function.