PACE legislation to expand in-home care passes Congress

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo by My Future via Flickr

Photo by My Future via Flickr

The House of Representatives on Oct. 21 passed legislation aimed at reducing costs and strengthening comprehensive, coordinated health care and related long-term services for some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens. It now heads to the President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

The Providing Programs of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly Act (PACE) Innovation Act (S 1362) will expand the current PACE program by allowing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to conduct demonstration projects, using the PACE Model of Care, to serve individuals with disabilities an integrated, community-based setting that supports independence and enhances quality of life. It will also work to improve health outcomes and reduce costs for seniors who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid.

“PACE is centered on the belief that it is better for individuals and their families to receive both medical care and long-term social services and supports in the home and community whenever possible,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), who co-sponsored the bill in the House with Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). “Providing both existing and new programs with the flexibility to expand will allow more people to maintain their dignity and autonomy and support families during challenging times.”

PACE aims to provide comprehensive, fully integrated health care services to dually eligible individuals who require nursing home level care but want to remain in their homes. These individuals have been diagnosed with a complex mix of chronic illnesses and functional or cognitive impairments, such as dementia, that inhibit their ability to live independently. Current federal restrictions inhibit a state’s flexibility to expand PACE programs. The PACE Innovation Act eases the current restrictions, improving the ability of states to provide higher-quality, more-efficient care. The legislation also will allow CMS to test the PACE model with new populations, such as younger people with disabilities and other individuals at-risk for needing nursing home care.

The bill was passed by the Senate prior to the August recess.

“I have supported PACE programs since I was governor of Virginia because they are great incubators for how we can better meet the needs of those with complex medical challenges,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a bill co-sponsor, said in a statement. “As I continue to work with the (Senate) Finance Committee’s bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group, I am focused on ensuring that health care providers collaborate to provide customized care for patients with chronic illness while simultaneously delivering financial savings to the system. PACE programs continue to provide great models for that effort.”

Other Senate co-sponsors were Tom Carper (D-Del.), Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Journalists can find a list of state administering agencies, learn how states can integrate PACE into existing health plans, check key research findings and find other source material at the National Pace Association website.

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