July 5 (UPI) -- A recent study shows states may be able to save millions of dollars on Medicaid if caregivers of dementia patients take part in intervention programs to improve well-being.
The study, published Wednesday in The Gerontologist, suggests that caregivers who participate in intervention programs designed to improve their emotional and physical well-being could help save tens of millions of dollars in state Medicaid spending and allow more dementia patients to remain in their communities.
Currently, the economic burden of dementia falls mainly on state Medicaid programs. More than two-thirds of Medicaid's budget goes to the elderly and disabled, and the government program is the largest single payer of nursing home services in the United States.
"This study demonstrates the potential net cost savings to Medicaid that would result from widespread use of a counseling and support intervention for family caregivers of people with dementia," Steven Foldes, the lead author of the study, said in a news release. "The cost of residential care for Medicaid eligibles with dementia clearly is of greatest relevance from a state health policy perspective. The current model is an important update of earlier models that shows that significant net cost savings are achievable from this primary payer perspective.
Researchers estimated projected savings from offering the New York University Caregiver Intervention, a care-giver support and counseling program, to eligible Minnesota Medicaid enrollees.
The study predicted and compared costs to Medicaid of care for residents with dementia in Minnesota over a 15-year time period, with and without the implementation of the intervention program for family caregivers.
It predicts a more than two-fold increase in the prevalence of Medicaid-eligible Minnesotans with dementia living with a spouse or adult child caregiver from 2011 to 2026.
However, if caregivers participated in an intervention like the one offered through New York University, researchers estimate roughly 5 to 6 percent more Medicaid-eligible patients with dementia would be able to stay in the community each year from 2014 on. Over 15 years, 17 percent fewer patients would die in nursing homes -- resulting in savings of $40.4 million if all caregivers took part in the program.
"Elected officials throughout the US recognize that they must find a way to pay for the increasing number of people with dementia who will need public support for nursing home care," Foldes said. "We've known for years that this proven counseling and support program helps caregivers cope and keep loved ones at home longer. Now we know that this program could also ease the burgeoning fiscal burden for Medicaid. We've extended our earlier study to carefully estimate just how much a state like Minnesota could save over 15 years."