Editorial: New policy benefits Alzheimer's patients

Medicare will finally cover Alzheimer's sufferers.

According to a report from The New York Times Sunday edition, the White House has authorized Medicare coverage for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's is a brain disorder that causes memory loss, personality and behavioral changes and adversely affects thinking abilities. Stephen McConnell, chief executive of the Alzheimer's Association, estimated that 10 percent of people older than 65 and nearly half of those older than 85 have the affliction.

This policy change, which was initiated in late 2001, means that Medicare beneficiaries cannot be denied reimbursement for mental health care or for hospice or home health-care costs because they have the disease.

"In the past, many claims were automatically denied on the assumption that treatment was futile because people with Alzheimer's were incapable of any medical improvement," the Times report said. "Now, federal officials say, new studies show that people with Alzheimer's can often benefit from psychotherapy, physical and occupational therapy and other services."

The curious element to this announcement is how quiet it has been. When asked why the government has not publicized this policy change, a Medicare official told the Times that Medicare "saw it mainly as a technical matter for Medicare carriers."

Anyone who has seen a loved one battle Alzheimer's knows that victims of the disease need all the help they can get from family, friends and from proper health care. To further deny Medicare coverage to Alzheimer's sufferers would have been a gross oversight on the part of governmental health care.


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