Smiling retired elderly woman talking with female caregiver in kitchen at nursing home

New entries in the world of PACE care for the elderly have elicited congratulations from nursing home representatives — and a reminder to state leaders about the important role skilled care facilities continue to play.

Kentucky’s new PACE (Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly) program was unveiled Thursday by Gov. Andy Beshear (D). The announcement came followed news that Illinois was also launching a PACE program in conjunction with five partners whose services were expected to launch by 2024.

They join at least 30 other state PACE programs around the country, all of them designed to provide “cost-effective” long-term care offerings for people 55 or older who could qualify for nursing home care but still reside at home. 

“This milestone is years in the making,” Beshear said. “The implementation of this PACE in Kentucky expands healthcare services available to aging Kentuckians who would otherwise qualify for Medicaid nursing home placement. It provides them with an array of home and community-based services — where most people want to remain anyway — and at lesser costs than a nursing home.”

The president of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities and Kentucky Center for Assisted Living applauded the new PACE program while also reminding that some individuals should not be diverted from nursing home care.

“KAHCF/KCAL appreciates Governor Beshear and his administration for providing the Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and giving Kentucky’s seniors options for aging how they choose,” Betsy Johnson told McKnight’s on Friday. “We believe all elders should receive care in an environment that fits them best. However, there are seniors in our communities that are unable to live safely in their homes or receive full-time care from family, and that is when our nursing facilities are there to assist.”

PACE enrollees voluntarily take part in the program, which offers a comprehensive array of medical and social services to those who meet certain criteria. Most are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid and would be candidates for institutionalized long-term care.

In addition to the minimum age, enrollees are required to be able to live safely in the community at the time of enrollment and reside in a PACE service area. There’s also a requirement that the state certifies any setting where a resident is receiving “nursing home level care.”

Utilizing PACE providers, individuals enrolled in the program will work with a team of health professionals to receive coordinated care. For most participants, the comprehensive, coordinated care service package will enable them to remain in their community rather than receive care in a nursing home, noted the public statement released Thursday.

“Kentucky is one of the fastest aging states in the nation and PACE allows for increased inclusion in aging Kentuckians’ communities,” noted Department for Aging and Independent Living Commissioner Victoria Elridge.

Bluegrass Care Navigators and Horizon PACE are currently the only two providers certified through Kentucky’s PACE program, serving members in 19 counties. Officials said the program is seeking more providers to expand the reach of the overall service area.

In Illinois, the federal application process continues, but healthcare leaders envision a comprehensive program that includes adult day care, occupational therapy programs, dental care, meals and access to prescription drugs.

“It’s also a big benefit for caretaker families who must often sacrifice work hours and other responsibilities to tend to the needs of frail and elderly parents,” said Ricardo Cifuentes, a spokesman for PACE partner Esperanza Health Centers.