Seniors More Likely to Get Help From PACE Program Under New Law

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Aging Boomers will receive more care through the PACE program thanks to new legislation in California.

California has a better chance of caring for its growing population of frail older people today, thanks to a Bonnie Lowenthal bill that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law. By signing the, the governor bolsters cost-saving program designed to keep older adults out of nursing homes.

“We’ve heard it a million times, the Baby Boom is becoming the Aging Boom,” said Assemblymember Lowenthal, D-Long Beach. “Well, it’s no joke, and we have to get ready. I think this law moves us at least a little bit in that direction.”

Assembly Bill 574 allows state officials to expand a model program that has been gradually growing for nearly four decades. PACE (Program of All-Include Care for the Elderly) is a state-and-federal program that coordinates the full spectrum of care needs for older adults in an effort to keep them in their homes and out of costly institutions.

The typical PACE participant is an 80-year-old woman suffering from multiple ailments who has a difficult time taking care of herself. Once enrolled in the program, individuals receive wrap-around services, including home health care, physician and physical therapy services, as well as prescription drug coverage and home-delivered meals, all designed to keep them as independent as possible. Medicare and Medicaid and payments from more affluent participants cover the cost of the program.

PACE, modeled on a successful program founded in San Francisco’s Chinese community in 1973, has gradually spread around the country. In 1997, the federal Balanced Budget Act established the cost-saving program as a permanent part of Medicare services. But California has been constrained by statute from letting the program grow too quickly. Lowenthal’s bill, for example, allows California to increase its PACE sites from five to 15.

“Now there is more opportunity to help,” said Lowenthal. “And that’s a good thing.”

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