Cottie Petrie-Norris

Increased access to senior services passes first legislative hurdle

With unanimous, bipartisan support, legislation to increase access to critical healthcare services has passed the Assembly’s Aging and Long-Term Care Committee. AB 540, authored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, will help more seniors remain in their homes and in our communities by improving beneficiary awareness and increasing access to the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

“We need to prepare our healthcare systems to adapt and accommodate California’s rapidly aging population,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “PACE provides our most vulnerable seniors with affordable, high quality and comprehensive care, saving money and helping seniors age in place. PACE has saved the state tens of millions of dollars annually—this is a true win-win.”

PACE serves low-income, vulnerable seniors by providing all-inclusive Medicare and Medi-Cal services through “one-stop shop” PACE centers, including individualized care, medical and dental care, meal assistance, transportation services, family caregiver respite, socialization activities and more. PACE achieves positive care outcomes for the beneficiaries it serves through fewer hospitalizations and nursing home admissions, better health and quality of life, and high rates of participant satisfaction with overall care. PACE is also projected to save California $131 million this year because it is up to 42% less expensive than institutional care.

Even though PACE is a model of care for frail seniors, many beneficiaries are unaware of PACE eligibility and how many services are available. Most enrollment occurs through individual referrals from community sources including hospital discharge planning, senior housing, area agencies on aging and other sources.

By offering all PACE-eligible beneficiaries the option to enroll, AB 540 helps to expand the reach of this highly innovative program.

“Choice needs a chance. PACE provides a safer, better, and less expensive alternative to nursing home care but many who could benefit from our work don’t know about it,” said Peter Hansel, Chief Executive Officer, CalPACE, the state association for PACE providers. “If more families know PACE is a care option through Medi-Cal, we believe they will choose PACE. PACE enables medically frail seniors to continue living at home while getting individualized care. That’s aging with dignity and it’s why we need AB 540.”

“CCoA supported the expansion of integrated care models like PACE in our recommendations for the Master Plan for Aging. By requiring PACE programs be offered as a Medi-Cal or Medicare benefit, this bill will give more vulnerable individuals access to this highly effective service,” said Ellen Schmeding, Chair of California Commission on Aging.

“We need to help frail Californians get the care they need when family caregivers need help,” said Donna Benton, Director, Family Caregiver Support Center at the University of Southern California. “Family caregivers balance many roles and we need to simplify how they find the help they need when they are not available.”

“By keeping people out of institutions and in their communities, PACE helps Californians age with dignity,” said Marty Omoto, Founder and Director, California Disability-Senior Community Action Network. “We need to expand community-based care models, like PACE, that work with people and families to ensure that loved ones receive the care they need. That requires taking the necessary steps in this bill to ensure Californians know this care option is available.”

“Many seniors enrolled in PACE are diagnosed with dementia and the majority of dementia cases are caused by Alzheimer’s Disease,” said Susan DeMarois, Director of Public Policy, Alzheimer’s Association. “PACE helps people live with dignity by enabling them to strengthen their relationships through long-term home and community-based care. Change can be especially stressful for those living with degenerative brain diseases and the ability to delay or prevent institutionalized care is often ideal.”

“The PACE program is a proven model and a successful alternative to a nursing home,” said Eric Dowdy, Chief Government Affairs Officer, LeadingAge California. “By requiring that PACE is offered as a Medi-Cal plan choice, more options will be available to allow older adults to age in the community. The PACE model furthers the priorities outlined in the Master Plan for Aging to build an age-friendly California.”

“PACE is the ‘Best Kept Secret’ in Healthcare,” said Elizabeth Carty, Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer, Welbehealth. “PACE is an option for 72% of the PACE eligible population in California. Unfortunately, they do not know PACE exists! The barrier is broad awareness of the ‘tried and true’ integrated PACE program. This bill will help eligible frail seniors learn of their PACE option!”

“Even though PACE is a model of care for seniors, many benefactors are unaware of PACE and how it may benefit them,” said Castulo de la Rocha, President and CEO, AltaMed in a letter supporting AB 540. “Many seniors with higher needs could benefit from direct state engagement and referrals for PACE services.”

“The bulk of enrollment occurs through individual referrals from community sources including hospital discharge planning, senior housing, area agencies on aging, and other sources and not from traditional marketing or other consumer focused media which PACE providers are prohibited from utilizing,” said Maria Zamora, CEO, Center for Elders’ Independence in a letter supporting AB 540. “As a result, many seniors with higher needs could benefit from direct state engagement and referrals for PACE services.”

AB 540 is supported by AltaMed, American Association of Retired Persons California, Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Los Angeles, Alzheimer’s Orange County, Alzheimer’s San Diego, Brandman Centers for Senior Care, California Association of Public Authorities for IHSS, California Commission on Aging (CCoA), California Disability – Senior Community Action Network, CalPACE (Sponsor), Centers for Elder Independence, Family Caregiver Support Center at USC, Golden Valley Health Centers, InnovAge, LeadingAge California, OnLok Senior Health Centers, San Ysidro Health, WelbeHealth and Western Center on Law & Poverty. This bill will be heard later this month by the Assembly Health Committee.

This article was released by the Office of Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris.