Medicare-sponsored Program Allows More Seniors to Age in Place

A program sponsored by Medicaid and Medicare which allows more seniors to age in place has recently expanded its presence in the state of California, keeping more seniors at home while reducing the cost of care for seniors in the state. This is according to a story appearing at Kaiser Health News (KHN).

The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), originated in 1979, provides comprehensive social and medical services to “certain frail, community-dwelling elderly individuals, most of whom are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid benefits,” according to the program’s website. The services are, “intended to keep people 55 and older who need nursing home levels of care at home as long as possible and out of the hospital,” KHN reporter Lori Basheda writes.

Since the state of California and the United States in general is seeing rapid growth in its senior population, PACE’s efforts are crucial in order to meet the needs of the growing population of elderly people.

“The rapidly growing senior population in California and across the country will put enormous strain on our current fragmented, and often inefficient, health care delivery system,” said Tim Lash, president of Gary and Mary West PACE Center in California to KHN. Additionally, officials for the state of California consider PACE to be an important component necessary to meet the needs of the rising population of seniors, Basheda writes.

In one instance, a California senior who lives north of San Diego is shuttled from his home two mornings a week to spend time at the recently-opened Gary and Mary West PACE Center. There, he participates in a variety of recreational activities before undergoing physical therapy sessions.

“[There,] he eats a hot lunch, plays cards and gets physical therapy to help restore the balance he lost after breaking both legs in a fall,” KHN details. “If he wants, he can shower, get his hair cut or have his teeth cleaned. Those twice-weekly visits are the highlights of the week for Perez, a 65-year-old retired mechanic who has diabetes and is legally blind.”

The subject of the story participates through his dual qualification for both Medicaid and Medicare, but options exist for seniors who wish to pay for the services who may not be covered under government programs, the story says. At the Gary and Mary West PACE Center, the cost ranges from $7,000-$10,000 per month depending on the level of care that is provided.

According to 2019 statistics from the National PACE Association, states pay an average of 13% less than the cost of senior care through other services funded by Medicaid, which includes more traditional nursing home environments. Enrollees can participate daily as early as 8:30am and stay until 4:30pm, with a PACE driver shuttling to and from the enrollee’s home.

Participants can also have personal health aides sent to their home, KHN writes, allowing seniors to receive more focused care without having to move out of their homes.

Read the story at Kaiser Health News.

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