FAIRFIELD, Iowa – Hillary Clinton on Tuesday proposed a $2 billion annual research initiative to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, in the next decade.
“For me, the bottom line is if we’re the kind of nation that cares for citizens and supports families,” Clinton said, “then we’ve got work to do and we need to do it better when it comes to diseases like Alzheimer’s.”
Clinton’s plan would quadruple the amount spent on Alzheimer’s research last year and would be paid for by tax reform proposals, similar to other campaign policies she’s rolled out.
"We can get payoff on this in ways that right now we can’t even imagine,” Clinton said at a campaign stop here.
Dozens of hands shot up as Clinton asked the room to show how many people had a connection to Alzheimer’s, a fixture of her campaign speech in states across the country.
She recounted stories she’s heard from both voters and friends about “removing the knobs on the stove so that mom can’t start a fire, or maybe sleeping on the floor outside dad’s bedroom so that he can’t get out when he feels compelled to try and escape, or leaving notes for your wife to remind her where she is and what day it is.”
The Democratic front-runner frequently talks on the trail about caretakers who have had to give up their jobs to support loved ones with Alzheimer’s and Tuesday’s announcement was no different.
She often tells the story of Keith from New Hampshire, a public school teacher caring for his mom with Alzheimer’s. Since he can’t afford to pay someone to watch her, he brings his mom to work with him.
“He’s just praying that she will be able to continue to manage that experience every day because he doesn’t know what happens next,” Clinton said emphatically as many in the room shook their heads in concerned disbelief.
As part of a series of proposals designed to help the middle class, Clinton rolled out a tax credit for caregivers’ expenses up to $6000 in Iowa in November.
“The lost wages and the work that is sometimes given up are costing families, especially women who make up the majority of both paid and unpaid caregivers,” she said in a town hall in Clinton.
The former secretary of state has long supported Alzheimer’s research. As a senator from New York, Clinton co-chaired a congressional task force on Alzheimer’s.
She has also proposed increasing investment in the National Institute of Health to prevent and treat other diseases besides Alzheimer’s that are afflicting Americans.
On Tuesday, her research plan received bipartisan support. Newt Gingrich tweeted that, although he doesn’t agree with Clinton on much, he admitted she was “moving in the right direction” on this particular cause.
Clinton is the first presidential candidate, Democratic or Republican, to propose a plan to battle the disease.
"I’m running for president to deal with the big problems but also with these problems that keep families up at night, and this is one that really fits into the category,” Clinton said.
In a particularly poignant moment, a mother of five told Clinton about her husband who had dementia and died in May.
"It’s tragic," the woman said, before a long embrace with Clinton. "I sincerely thank you for your attention to this disease."