Senate panel: Dementia a $20 trillion threat

Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wis., chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging Sen. Herbert Kohl, D-Wis., chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging

The United States has to continue to make funding scientific research on Alzheimer's disease and other causes of dementia a top priority, according to the members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

The fiscal climate may be challenging, but the Alzheimer's Association is estimating that, unless the country finds some way to prevent Alzheimer's disease (AD), cure it or substantially improve treatments for disease, the condition will cost the United States alone about $20 trillion over the next 40 years, the committee has concluded in a report in which it looks at how other countries are handling dementia.

"These staggering projections underscore not only the human, scientific and clinical challenges, but also the financial impact of AD without new discoveries," the committee said.

The committee talks about long-term care insurance (LTCI) mainly in discussions of dementia care funding in France and Japan.

France provides a great deal of public funding for long-term care (LTC) services through the country's public health insurance system and through a social insurance system of cash support, the committee said in the report.

"France also has a well-developed private long-term care insurance (LTCI) market, which covers individuals in both individual and group markets," the committee said. "In 2010, private LTCI in France covered the equivalent of 15 percent of the population aged 40 and older. Private LTCI benefits are paid in cash similar to the public assistance program."

In Japan, the government has a mandatory social insurance program for citizens ages 65 and older that provides LTC benefits, the committee said.

All individuals ages 40 and over must contribute to the program.

About half of the LTC costs are covered by national, prefectural and municipal taxes, and half by the participants' premium payments, the committee said.

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