House bill would expand program to keep younger people out of nursing homes

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People younger than 55 would become eligible for a program to prevent unnecessary nursing home admissions if lawmakers pass a bill introduced Thursday in the U.S. House of Representatives.

These younger people currently are not allowed to participate in the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), noted bill sponsor Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). The program, which now is running in 31 states, has been a “huge success,” Blumenauer said. The bill that he introduced with Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) would bring younger people “into the fold” in a budget-neutral manner, he said.

PACE is designed for individuals who need a nursing home level of care. But instead of institutional care, it puts in place a healthcare team to enable participants to live in home- or community-based settings whenever possible. PACE is run through private health plans that receive capitated payments from the government. They are charged with providing coordinated care for people who otherwise would be billing Medicare and/or Medicaid for less integrated services. 

The “Pace Pilot Act” (HR 4543) also would eliminate the nursing home level of care requirement. This would widen access to preventative services and treatments for the “frailest members of our society,” Smith said. 

Studies have shown that PACE participants have fewer hospitalizations and nursing home admissions, the bill's sponsors noted.

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