2017 Alzheimer’s Texas State Public Policy News

What Bills Mattered for Alzheimer’s & Dementia During the 85th Regular Legislative Session of the Texas Legislature

alzheimer's_texas_public_policy_factsThe 85th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature adjourned on May 29, 2017. A total of 6,631 bills and joint resolutions were filed but only 1,211 passed. Of the bills that were passed, HB 2639 and HB 2025 were the only ones to specifically focus on Alzheimer’s disease. However, a few other bills that passed are pertinent to people with Alzheimer’s disease. Here is an overview of some of the changes that were made during the regular session and that are relevant to people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

  • The Silver Alert System is to include all people with Alzheimer’s disease, regardless of age.
  • Facilities that provide care for people with Alzheimer’s disease are to employ staff that specialize in or have experience working with Alzheimer’s disease patients.
  • The hospitals that are discharging patients with family caregivers are to provide the caregiver with information and training for aftercare.
  • Financial institutions are required to withhold and report suspicious transactions in an effort to reduce financial abuse of vulnerable adults.
  • The injury and the exploitation of elders or disabled people are crimes that are punishable as felonies.

Amendment to the Texas’ Silver Alert System: All people with Alzheimer’s are eligible, regardless of age

Prior to the enactment of House Bill 2639 (HB 2639), a Silver Alert would be activated only if the missing person was 65 years or older. Now that HB 2639 has been signed into law, the Silver Alert System has been modified to also serve people with younger-onset Alzheimer’s which affects people in their 40s and 50s. Since over 18,000 Texans have younger-onset Alzheimer’s, making all people with Alzheimer’s, regardless of age, eligible for the Silver Alert is a significant step towards ensuring the safety of all people affected by the disease. This is a legislative change that resulted from collaboration between the Alzheimer’s Association and Representative Joe Pickett (District 79), who authored the bill, and Senate Sponsor Senator Dawn Buckingham (District 24).

Facilities providing residential care for Alzheimer’s disease patients must have employee who has been trained to care for people with Alzheimer’s

As of September 2017, pursuant to House Bill 2025 (HB 2025), nursing homes and assisted living facilities with Alzheimer’s disease patients are required to have at least one employee on staff that specializes in Alzheimer’s care or has experience taking care of people with Alzheimer’s. Overall, the purpose of HB 2025 is to ensure that residential care facilities are providing adequate care for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Therefore, the bill also outlines stricter enforcement penalties for facilities that fail to meet certain licensing requirements. The bill was authored by Representative Yvonne Davis (District 111) and sponsored by Senator Kolkhorst (District 18).

Hospitals are to provide adequate training and medical instruction to family caregivers looking after a loved one who is being discharged from the facility

House Bill 2425 (HB 2425), which is also known as the CARE Act, became effective upon Governor Abbott’s signature on May 26, 2017. This bill has three important components that fundamentally focus on family caregivers and on providing them with adequate training to care for their loved one. The first part of HB 2425 requires that a family caregiver be designated upon a patient’s admission to a hospital. Then, once the hospital is ready to discharge or transfer the patient to another facility, the designated caregiver must be notified. Finally, if the patient is being discharged, the hospital must ensure that the family caregiver is adequately prepared to care for their loved one at home by providing them with essential information and training. With over 3.4 million family caregivers in Texas, there is no doubt that this change in legislature will be helping many families look after their loved one. The Alzheimer’s Association was a supporting organization of HB 2425. Bill author: Representative Price (District 87); Sponsor: Senator Taylor (District 8)

Financial institutions will play a significant role in detecting and preventing the financial abuse of vulnerable adults, such as people with Alzheimer’s disease

House Bill 3921 (HB 3921) requires financial institutions to report suspected cases of exploitation and to temporarily freeze suspected accounts. The ultimate purpose of this piece of legislature is to prevent and reduce the financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. The Alzheimer’s Association applauds Representative Parker and Senator Hancock for leading the efforts to curb financial exploitation of vulnerable adults. Financial exploitation is the second most common crime against elders in the nation but only 1 out 44 cases are reported. As a result, HB 3921 is an integral legislative measurement that will help detect and address crimes of elder financial abuse in Texas. This bill will be implemented in September 2017. Bill Author: Representative Parker (District 63) Sponsor: Senator Hancock (District 9).

Injuring or exploitation of elder punishable as a felony

Senate Bill 998 (SB 998) was signed into law in early June and it will be effective as of September 2017. Overall, SB 998 will bring a slight yet significant change to Texas’ penal code. With the enactment of SB 998, both the injury and the exploitation of elders and disabled people are to be punishable as felonies. Thus, SB998, like HB 3921, is an important step towards addressing crimes against vulnerable adults. Bill Author: Senator West (District 23) Sponsor:  Representative Canales (District 40).

FEDERAL NEWS: Medicare Now Covers Dementia Care Planning

Under the 2017 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), physicians working with Medicare beneficiaries can bill Medicare for providing Alzheimer’s care planning services to their patients. Under the new CMS billing code G0505, physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and certified nurse midwives can be reimbursed for providing care planning services to Medicare beneficiaries. The new billing code includes the identification of a caregiver as well as an assessment of that caregiver’s knowledge, needs and ability to provide care. Caregivers may also be included in the creation of a detailed care plan for the person with cognitive impairment. The Alzheimer’s Association has long advocated for Medicare reimbursement for services aimed at improving detection, diagnosis, and care planning and coordination for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. This change will encourage healthcare professionals to provide people with Alzheimer’s and their families with the information and resources that they will need post diagnosis, which in the long run will ensure better outcomes and care.

Prioritizing Alzheimer’s disease in state and federal legislature

Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million people across the United States and it is the 6th leading cause of death in the nation. Approximately 360,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the state of Texas alone, and these numbers are expected to grow! The Alzheimer’s Association will continue to support state and federal legislation that will serve, in the best of interests, people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families and caregivers. We urge you to do the same!


Become an Advocate

If you are interested in helping us bring Alzheimer’s disease to the frontlines of our state’s political agenda, contact Melissa Sanchez, Texas Public Policy Lead at msanchez@alz.org, to become an advocate for our state priorities.