Back and Forward: Susan DeMarois on Medical Costs Associated with an Aging Population

Back Q&A Apr 17, 2017

Susan DeMarois, the state policy director at the California State Policy Office of the Alzheimer’s Association, offers her perspective on the costs associated with Alzheimer’s and other related dementias. For more from DeMarois, check out “Fortress of Solvency” in our April issue. Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll email you when it’s available online.

What’s the biggest change in your industry in the past year?

The vast majority of people living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia rely on Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal). Both of these programs are under close scrutiny by Congress with changes expected. Currently, total national cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated at $259 billion (excludes unpaid caregiving), of which $175 billion is the cost to Medicare and Medicaid alone. Out-of-pocket costs for families facing dementia already average $10,315 annually (compared to $2,232 without Alzheimer’s) — this number is likely to climb even higher.  

What do you foresee as the biggest change on the horizon in the year to come?

For years we’ve predicted an increase in Alzheimer’s and related dementias and we’re seeing the impact now. Age is the greatest risk factor for the disease. In California, the 60 and older population will increase by about 2 million people within a decade while the 0-19 aged population will remain flat with no growth. Soon, both groups will total about 10 million each, roughly equal in size. This influx will disrupt health care systems and long-term services and supports. Our communities, state and nation lack the infrastructure, workforce and coordination needed to serve a significantly larger aging population.

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