RELEASE: Bill to Help Seniors Remain in Their Homes Advances

AB 540 Will Increase Access to Safer, Less Costly Nursing Home Alternative

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO — The Senate Health Committee has passed legislation to increase access to wraparound healthcare services that enable seniors to age in the comfort of their own communities instead of nursing homes. AB 540 will help thousands of California’s growing population of seniors by improving beneficiary awareness and access to the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). 
“Seniors want care choices and don’t want to be prematurely placed in nursing homes,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach). “By 2030, one in three Californians will be over the age of 50 and so we must prepare our healthcare systems by expanding access to programs like PACE.”
PACE is a proven success story. PACE achieves high levels of outcomes for the beneficiaries it serves including fewer hospitalizations and nursing home admissions, better health and quality of life, and high rates of participant satisfaction with overall care. PACE is also a money saver – it is estimated that PACE saved California over $69 million in 2020. It is projected to save California $131 million this year because it is up to 42% less expensive than institutional care. 
While PACE is an ideal option for many seniors, many beneficiaries are unaware of PACE eligibility and how many services are available. Most seniors who enroll for PACE are told about it by other individuals or community sources, such as hospital discharge planning, senior housing, area agencies on aging and other sources. As a result, many seniors with higher needs could benefit from direct state engagement and referrals for PACE services.
By offering all PACE-eligible beneficiaries the option to enroll, AB 540 helps to expand the reach of this highly effective and innovative program.
“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.”
“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 billwill 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 Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Los Angeles, Alzheimer’s Orange County, Alzheimer’s San Diego, Association of California Caregiver Resource Center, Brandman Centers for Senior Care, California Alliance for Retired Americans, California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, California Association of Public Authorities for IHSS, California Commission on Aging, California Disability - Senior Community Action Network, CalPACE (Sponsor), Centers for Elder Independence, Contra Costa County Area Agency on Aging, Family Caregiver Support Center - USC Golden Valley Health Centers, InnovAge, Innovative Integrated Health, LeadingAge California, North East Medical Services, On Lok Senior Health Centers, San Ysidro Health, U.S. Renal Care, WelbeHealth and the Western Center on Law & Poverty. 
This bill will be heard next by the Senate Appropriations Committee.