Congress Passes Bill to Increase Home Health Options

Legislation that enables more older adults to remain at home instead of moving into a nursing home has passed in Congress. The law expands the Medicare Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) to allow providers to develop pilot programs to serve more people who are at risk of needing a nursing home and certain individuals who are younger than 55.

A PACE organization is a not-for-profit entity that is engaged in providing comprehensive medical and social services that are supplemented by in-home care as needed. The bill was approved by the House of Representatives and has been sent to President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed into law.

“This legislation is another milestone for the PACE Model of Care,” Shawn Bloom, president and CEO of the National Pace Association (NPA), said in a statement. “PACE providers have had many ideas about how to innovate the PACE model to serve younger people with disabilities and seniors so that they can enjoy a high quality of life in the community. We are excited to see what is possible given the opportunities this legislation will create to build on the PACE experience.”

Under current laws, a person must be 55 years old or older, be certified to meet the nursing home level of care, live in the PACE service area and live in the community with the support of PACE services to enroll in PACE.

Organizations like the NPA, which works to advance the efforts of PACE and coordinated care within communities, argue that increasing flexibility for PACE programs will better serve the population and allow more individuals to remain in their own homes.

“Existing care models are often expensive and still leave gaps in care that can be hard to successfully navigate,” Bloom said. “PACE organizations are eager to demonstrate how its interdisciplinary, all-inclusive approach can improve health outcomes and quality of life for younger individuals who qualify to enroll.”

There are currently 116 PACE programs that serve 35,000 enrollees in 32 states.

“In Pennsylvania, PACE, or ‘LIFE,’ programs have been extremely successful in helping seniors remain in their own homes rather than having to go into a costly nursing home or institutional setting,” Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), who supported the legislation, said in a statement. “The PACE Innovation Act builds on this successful approach.”

Written by Amy Baxter