A picture of Senator Barbara A. Mikulski
Barbara M.
Democrat MD

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  • Continuing Appropriations

    by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

    Posted on 2013-03-12

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    MIKULSKI. Madam President, shortly we will go to our respective party caucuses. I understand that we are going to be joined by the President of the United States so he may share with us his insights and recommendations to deal with our economy so we can get it going.

    I know one of the issues that often comes up is the so-called entitlement reform. This is not the subject we are dealing with on the Appropriations Committee, but I would like to talk briefly about how we do impact the funding of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

    I would like to take a minute to talk about Medicaid. I want to talk about what Medicaid funds. Remember, Medicaid, by and large, is not in our Appropriations Committee. Medicaid is not in our Appropriations Committee, but the people who work for Medicaid are. And that is a different topic.

    I want everybody to understand Medicaid because it is a subject of great debate--and often a prickly debate. Eighty percent of the beneficiaries on Medicaid are children. Usually they are children of the working poor. It helps them to get the health care they need for the early detection of hearing problems. It may also be for a child with diabetes the family is concerned about.

    Although 80 percent of the beneficiaries are children, 80 percent of the money goes to seniors or people in nursing homes or assisted-living homes due to some form of neurological or cognitive impediment.

    Now, I don't want to sound like an MD, I don't even have a Ph.D, but from talking to my constituents, I do know 80 percent of those in long- term care facilities are often there due to something related to dementia, such as Alzheimer's or a neurological impediment such as Parkinson's.

    Let's talk about NIH--and, remember, NIH does funding at the Bethesda campus in Maryland, and it also gives grants to brilliant researchers who are usually working in academic centers of excellence. Those centers could be Johns Hopkins or the University of Maryland or the University of Alabama or Kentucky. Those grants are competitive and peer-reviewed.

    Let me get to the point I am trying to make. By funding NIH and the National Institutes of Aging, we are on a breakthrough trajectory for finding the cognitive stretch-out for Alzheimer's.

    I have been on this for more than 20 years because my dear father, who ensured my education and looked out for me all the way through raising me as a young lady, died of the consequences of Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's is an equal opportunity catastrophe for the high and mighty and for the ordinary. Our own endearing President Ronald Reagan died of the consequences of Alzheimer's, as did my father, ordinary people, men and women who helped build America.

    So we need to make public investments in research to find the cure for Alzheimer's and, if not a cure, cognitive stretchout. What do I mean by cognitive stretchout? It means if we have early detection, new tools, new MRI technology, new ways of identifying it early on, what could we do to prevent memory loss? If we could do it in 3 to 5 years, we would reduce the cost of Medicaid spending. If we find a cure for Alzheimer's alone--and I am not even talking about Lou Gehrig's disease or Parkinson's--we could reduce the Medicaid budget by 50 percent--5-0.

    Nancy Reagan has spoken about it. Sandra Day O'Connor has spoken about it. Barb Mikulski is speaking about it. Most of all, America speaks, through the Alzheimer's Association and other groups. They march for the cure. They march for the stretchout. In that one area alone, we could have a dramatic impact on the lives of American families and on the future of Federal spending in Medicaid. It would meet a compelling human need. When a person has Alzheimer's, the whole family has Alzheimer's. I remember my dear mother, as my father became more and more lost in his memory, had to work a 36-hour day, as the family did as well, looking out for him. We were more than willing to do it.

    I was born in the 1930s. I was a school girl in the 1940s and 1950s. There wasn't much talk about educating girls. But not from my father. I have two wonderful sisters. My father wanted his girls to have an education. He felt that by giving us an education, he could give us something nobody would ever take away from us so we would be ready for whatever life sent us.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The majority time has expired.

    Ms. MIKULSKI. I ask unanimous consent for 3 additional minutes.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

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