By Mikel Chavers
When it comes to expensive chronic diseases driving health care costs, the issue gets very personal with Alabama Sen. Vivian Davis Figures. That’s because her mother is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and her mother-in-law died from Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease costs $148 billion in health care every year, said Stephen Geist, regional director for the California Southland Alzheimer’s Association. That means someone will be diagnosed with the disease every 70 seconds—and that’s going to be an increasing burden for states to bear.
Geist said states—particularly in the Northwest—will experience an estimated 81 percent to 127 percent increase in Alzheimer’s cases in the next 15 years. Yet only 11 states currently have a state Alzheimer’s plan, according to Geist.
California is working on one slowly but surely, he said. “The others are going to be taken by surprise.”
Geist recalls one caregiver in particular—a more than 80-year-old woman on her knees on a tiled floor trying to change her 92-year-old husband’s dirty diaper, because her husband has Alzheimer’s and can’t participate in his own care
Along with Alzheimer’s, diabetes is also driving health care costs, according to Dr. Fran Kaufman, chief medical officer with Medtronic Inc., an associate of The Council of State Governments.
Type 2 diabetes is increasing mostly due to obesity, Kaufman said. And what’s worse, it’s a disease that requires multiple interventions, making it costly to manage.
“But if you don’t control your diabetes, your complication rate is significantly increased,” Kaufman said. Even though Type 2 diabetes can be prevented through lifestyle changes, “if we can’t prevent this, then we’ve got to have better ways to effectively manage it,” Kaufman said.
The money spent on diabetes between 2006 and 2007 nearly doubled, according to Kaufman. In 2007, $174 billion was spent on diabetes in the U.S., she said.
“This is not about me alone in a room with a patient and a family,” Kaufman said. “It’s about how to manage (and) whether someone lives a healthy lifestyle and has access to good health care.”