Cottie Petrie-Norris

State Assembly votes to increase access to safer, less costly nursing home alternative

The State Assembly has passed legislation to expand access to community-based care for medically frail seniors. The Program for All-Inclusive Care (PACE) provides medical and dental care, meal assistance, transportation services, family caregiver respite, physical therapy and socialization activities that enable seniors to age in the comfort of their own home instead of nursing homes. AB 540, authored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris will ensure low-income seniors are informed about PACE as a care option when enrolling in Medi-Cal.

“PACE originated in California but many of our seniors don’t know about it. It’s time to get the word out,” said Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris. “Today’s vote sends a message to our seniors that the Golden State will support them throughout their golden years. This bill will help thousands of seniors safely receive the care they need while aging with dignity and independence at home.”

During the pandemic, just 17% of California seniors enrolled in PACE were diagnosed with COVID-19 compared to 70% of nursing home residents. PACE is over 40 % less expensive than nursing home care, which will save California $131 million this year.

PACE’s potential has not been tapped. It is a safer, better, and less expensive way to care for seniors with high care needs while keeping them connected to their communities,” said Peter Hansel, Chief Executive Officer of CalPACE, the state association for PACE and sponsor of AB 540. “If more families know PACE is an option, we believe they will choose PACE because most of us want to age in place to the extent possible.”

Expanding PACE access tracks with the preferences of nearly 90% of Californians, according to a new SCAN Foundation poll, who want services needed to live at home and in the community as they age. These expectations accompany an ongoing demographic shift in which 25 percent of Californians will be aged 60 or over by 2030. Given its safety record during COVID-19 and cost-effectiveness, PACE has been under the national spotlight with President Joe Biden’s proposed $400 billion investment in long-term care, as part of his American Jobs Plan, with a focus on community-based care like PACE. Seniors enrolled in PACE, in California, live with an average of 20 medical conditions, a third of whom have Alzheimer’s Disease. All seniors enrolled in PACE are eligible for Medi-Cal and, given their age and high rates of disabilities, 75 percent are also covered by Medicare.

AB 540 passed the State Assembly 78-0 and heads to the State Senate.

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