Dementia by the numbers
The cost to care for people with dementia outpaced costs associated with heart disease and cancer, according to a new study.
The total cost of dementia in the United States in 2010 ranged from $157 billion to $215 billion, compared to $102 billion for heart disease and $77 billion for cancer, according to the "Monetary Cost of Dementia" report by the RAND Corporation.
In 2010, an estimated 15 percent of the population had dementia. The annual cost per person was $56,290 or $41,689, depending on the method used to estimate costs associated with informal care, according to the study.
The costs associated with dementia were determined using study participants’ reports on out-of-pocket expenses related to their illness, Medicare spending and formal and informal home care.
If the prevalence of dementia and its costs per person remain the same, the total cost of the disorder could more than double by 2040 because of an aging population, say the authors of the report.
It may be too soon to tell how this will affect insurance premiums in the long run, but we do know that life insurers are already starting to test for dementia. At Genworth, testing for cognitive impairment is standard for anyone who is age 70 and above. But other life insurance companies start testing at age 60, while still others wait until age 80. (See: "Is it crazy for life insurers to test for dementia?")
As for health insurance, under health reform, beginning next year, insurers will not be allowed to deny coverage or charge you a higher premium because of your gender or because you have an illness or health condition. (See: "Health reform sticks: Now what?')
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's.
Follow him on Twitter @destoups