RELEASE: State Assembly Votes to Increase Access to Safer, Less Costly Nursing Home Alternative

AB 540 Will Help Seniors Access Care in Their Communities, While Remaining Independent in Their Own Homes

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – 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


“By keeping people out of institutions and in their communities, PACE helps Californians age with dignity,” said Marty Omoto, Founder and Director of the 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 at the 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.”

“We need to help frail Californians get the care they need when family caregivers need help,” Donna Benton, President of the Association of California Caregiver Resource Centers. “Family caregivers balance many roles and we need to simplify how they find the help they need when they are not available.”

“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 the California Commission on Aging. 

“The PACE program is a proven model and a successful alternative to a nursing home,” said Eric Dowdy, Chief Government Affairs Officer at 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.”

“Fifty years ago, On Lok’s founders sought a better way to care for San Francisco’s elderly who were frequently sent to nursing homes far from their families and communities,” said Grace Li, CEO at On Lok in a letter supporting AB 540. “On Lok pioneered the PACE model of care, which is a provider-based managed care program that fully integrates all Medicare and Medicaid services, from acute hospital care to long-term services and supports, for individuals 55 years of age and older who meet the Medicaid nursing home level of care.” 

“PACE is the ‘Best Kept Secret’ in Healthcare,” said Elizabeth Carty, Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer at 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 at 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 at 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.”