Alzheimer's costs could reach $20 trillion by 2050 if no treatment is found, report finds

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CMS: Medicare rate increase would boost SNF payments by $500 million
CMS: Medicare rate increase would boost SNF payments by $500 million

Without an effective treatment, the cumulative costs of caring for patients with Alzheimer's disease in the United States could top $20 trillion over the next 40 years, according to a new report from the Alzheimer's Association.

By the year 2050, the number of people with Alzheimer's disease will climb from roughly 5.1 million today to an estimated 13.5 million, the report released this week said. If that happens, annual costs would also rise—from $172 billion to more than $1 trillion. Costs to Medicare will jump by more than 600% to $627 billion per year. That compares to $88 billion today. Meanwhile, Medicaid costs will soar to $178 billion, up from the current $34 billion, according to the report.

These estimates assume that no effective treatment for the disease will be found in the coming decades. But if a treatment can be found that postpones the disease's onset by five years and starts showing an effect in 2015, the effects would be dramatic, according to the report. By 2020, the number of people with Alzheimer's would fall to 4 million. By 2050, 43% of the estimated 13.5 million affected individuals would be free of the disease, according to the report. As a result, annual savings to Medicare at that time would total $283 billion. Savings to Medicaid would be $79 billion.