Is PACE Program Future of Senior Health Care?

CBS News recently reported on glowing praise for a relatively small program seeking to help seniors live independently. Known as the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), the program is being credited with helping many on New York Medicaid avoid being forced to move into nursing homes. For example, one New Yorker interviewed for the story is a 65-year old woman who faces a series of health challenges. Her osteoporosis has left her wheelchair bound, as she can only walk in small doses. Like many, the woman faced serious financial setbacks and is currently unemployed. With a history of chronic depression, the woman admitted that if she was forced to move into a nursing home, she doubts she would survive.

Yet, so far, she has been able to avoid the nursing home as a result of PACE. The program allows this woman, any other seniors is similar situations, to live at home and receive support from area day care center. Seniors can visit the center for various services, from coordinated medical care, social work support, and various activities, like yoga.

Our New York elder care attorneys appreciate the immense value of this program which allows more seniors to age in place.

The Future of PACE
New York currently has the largest PACE program in the country. It is jointly funded by the state and federal government via Medicaid and Medicaid programs. Of course, there are always concerns about how proposed cuts to federal and state healthcare budgets will affect these programs. Yet, instead of posing a risk to PACE, many suggest that a need to trim budgets may result in increased use of these alternatives.

The head of New York’s largest PACE program noted that “I think the program is a very strong alternative to nursing home based care.”

That is because they may be cheaper than the alternative nursing home care. The average nursing home stay nationwide costs $90,000 per patient per year. The PACE costs are around $60,000. Our elder care attorneys are therefore not surprised that the total number of PACE programs have doubled in the last five years.

While PACE is growing, there is still much room to expand. Right now only about 20,000 people are served. The vast majority of seniors in this position are still funnelled into nursing homes. Theoretically, program supporters say that over 9 million people may benefit from the program. Reaching that point, however, will require all states to make the conscious effort to shift limited resources to these alternatives.

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