PACE Innovation Act to expand program's reach

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Editor's note: President Barack Obama signed the PACE Innovation Act into law Nov. 5.

The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, or PACE, will be expanded to older adults who do not yet meet the standard for nursing home level of care and to others under legislation that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Oct. 21.

The PACE Innovation Act of 2015 now awaits the signature of President Barack Obama after the House voted by voice to send him S. 1362, the Senate companion bill to its H.R. 3243, which the Senate had passed Aug. 5.

PACE delivers a range of medical and long-term services, including medical care and prescription drug services; physical and occupational therapy; day and respite care; and medical specialties such as dentistry, optometry and podiatry. It has been limited to those aged 55 or more years who meet state-specified criteria for needing a nursing home level of care, but the PACE Innovation Act will allow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to develop pilot programs that would bring the model to more people wherever they live.

“It's such good news that Congress is passing a bill that is so worthwhile, expanding a model that has research that it does improve outcomes, keep people at home longer and save Medicare dollars,” Peter Notarstefano, director of home and community-based services at LeadingAge, told McKnight's Senior Living. “Having the PACE model as another tool that can be used by both the federal government and the state as a partner with the PACE provider is really a great step forward.”

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), one of the representatives who introduced the bill in the House, said the act “will provide the federally supported PACE organizations with much needed flexibility to bring the benefits of coordinated medical and long term services to more seniors who seek to live independently in the setting of their choosing.” Beneficiaries could include older adults who need 24-hour care but do not meet the nursing home standard, people with early-onset Alzheimer's disease and others, he said. The Alzheimer's Association was among the act's supporters.

First authorized in the Balanced Budget Act in 1997, PACE now serves 35,000 people through 116 programs in 32 states, according to the National PACE Association, another supporter of the legislation.

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