Hillary Clinton's Alzheimer's Research Proposal Even Has Newt Gingrich Singing Her Praises
Big government spending doesn't win over many in Washington, D.C., these days, but a new plan announced by Hillary Clinton to expand research for Alzheimer's disease is a political home run, pleasing more than just progressive Democrats. The fight against the disease has until now been largely been a bipartisan effort. But if Clinton can own the debate on the issue, it is something that will appeal to Independents and women, two important constituencies she'll need to win the general election.
A poll taken during the 2008 election season showed women are more likely to vote for a candidate that supports increased research for the disease and that 66 percent of Independents are concerned about developing the disease. The poll showed that interest by voters stretched across all age groups, too, with 65 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds concerned about themselves or family members developing the disease, compared with 64 percent of seniors.
Clinton's plan is a big deal and should catch these groups' attention. The former Secretary of State wants to spend $2 billion a year on research with the goal of curing the disease by 2025. She rolled out her plan at a campaign stop Tuesday in Fairfield, Iowa. A cure would help the 5 million Americans living with the disease, a number that could grow as high as 15 million by 2050, causing untold heartache and costing the health care system, particularly Medicare, billions in care.
Clinton spoke about the proposal in a statement:
We owe it to the millions of families who stay up at night worrying about their loved ones afflicted by this terrible disease and facing the hard reality of the long goodbye to make research investments that will prevent, effectively treat and make a cure possible by 2025.
The best scientific minds tell us we have a real chance to make groundbreaking progress on curing this disease and relieving the pain so many families feel every day. My plan will set us on that course.
The price tag — $2 billion a year — might seem steep, but given the possibility of endless treatment, it's a reasonable expense. The government already spends $586 million a year on Alzheimer's research according to the advocacy group Alzheimer's Association. But for every single one of those dollars spent on research, many more are spent through Medicare and Medicaid on care, the group said. Deaths from the disease increased 71 percent from 2000 to 2013, USA Today reported, and yet no new treatment has been approved in more than a decade.
Adding things up, the United States spends roughly $226 billion a year for the care of people living with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, according to a report released this year by the Alzheimer's Association. Medicare and Medicaid pay 68 percent of those costs with private insurers and families picking up the rest of the bill. The report said that total could reach $1.1 trillion by 2050 as the number of patients triple and health care costs increase.
The research, by comparison, is a drop in the bucket and could save budgets for years to come if a cure is found. Regarding how the research might be funded, a Clinton campaign aide said savings from tax reform proposals could make up the spending. While that may or may not be doable, with numbers like these, it's a no-brainer financially.
There's also a real political benefit to the altruistic announcement. Both those suffering from Alzheimer's and caregivers of the afflicted are primarily women, according to Alzheimer's Association's statistics. Two-thirds of caregivers are women and nearly two-thirds of people over 65 who have the disease are women with even higher rates among black and Latino women.
The Alzheimer's Association reports that caretakers tend to be younger women, and about half are caring for a parent — a difficult job both emotionally and financially for at least two in five. About 40 percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less, according to the group's research. The non-profit's findings show that physical and emotional stress caring for others leads to depression and other health problems, costing these burdened families even more, about $9.7 billion in additional health care costs in 2014 for caregivers.
Given the hardship these women and their families face, Clinton putting the disease at the forefront of the national conversation will win some points. Plus, this is something even the biggest anti-Clinton folks have to agree with her on. The deadlocked Congress we all love to hate even passed legislation this year supporting Alzheimer's research raising research dollars by 50 percent — it's that transcendent politically.
Support has already started to come in from supporters, political opponents, and everyday Americans. Everyone from Maria Shriver to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has had something good to say. It's not often we hear him singing Clinton's praises.
Given the different kinds of political people the announcement has brought together, it can definitely be considered a win. And then of course there's the millions who will benefit from a cure. Well done, Hillary!