PACE is on the move in Ohio!
Area agencies and elected officials alike would like to see an expansion of the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) to provide better medical care for seniors in Toledo and Ohio’s other major metropolitan regions.
A bipartisan group of legislators and local officials heard the pitch from the region’s various senior support organizations Monday about how northwest Ohio and the entire state could benefit from PACE expansion. The presentation was held at the Margaret Hunt Senior Center in South Toledo.
The nationwide program seeks to provide proper medical care while allowing seniors to continue to live at home.
“As people age in place, we’re trying to provide a secure setting, high quality, high medical services as well as social services for them to come during the day,” said Billie Johnson, president and CEO of the Area Office on Aging of Northwest Ohio. “So many of our older adults want to stay at home. They don’t necessarily have to go into a nursing facility, so we are trying to make sure we have a wonderful location for them to come during the day. We pick them up from home, we take them back home after the day’s service is over.”
Ms. Johnson said that PACE can provide everything from prescription drugs and temporary nursing facilities to rehabilitation services like physical and occupational therapy.
To qualify for PACE care, individuals must be over the age of 55 and eligible for Medicaid, or dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Individuals must also be nursing-home eligible, but able to live independently if PACE services are provided.
McGregor PACE in Cleveland is currently the only provider of such services in the state of Ohio. According to statistics provided by the Expand PACE Ohio Coalition, only 16.2 percent of the state’s PACE eligible population lives within the service area. The coalition is made up of care providers that cover a total of 110,000 Ohio seniors, as well as state and federal advocates of the program.
Ann Conn, president and CEO of McGregor PACE, said that their program serves about 650 seniors in Cuyahoga County with a 97 percent satisfaction rating. The coalition estimates between 2,564 and 5,056 PACE eligible individuals in the Toledo region and that the initial plan for the area would be to provide one large or two small PACE care centers to serve the area.
The coalition also cites a cost savings to the state associated with the program, stating that “the monthly rate for dual eligible (Medicaid and Medicare) PACE participants is $2,926, compared to a state Medicaid managed care plan’s monthly dual eligible rate of $4,048.”
“It costs the state less money [and] provides better quality care,” Ms. Conn said.
Expansion of PACE was originally included in the version of the last state budget that passed the State Senate, but was eventually removed before the budget became law.
The best hope to pass the expansion before the end of the year is through House Bill 600, a stand alone version similar to what was included in the original budget.
Initial startup funding for a PACE expansion would now come from the American Rescue Plan Act.
Patrick Schwartz, director of government affairs and communications at LeadingAge Ohio, explained the importance of moving quickly on the legislation.
“It lays out an RFP [request for proposal] process, it will take about a year to pick providers, get them the startup funds through ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act], and then get them off the ground,” said Mr. Schwartz. “That’s why it’s so important for us to get this done this fall, because if we move this to the state budget, which will start again next year, we’re looking at at least July until it gets done.”
The bill would allow the state to take PACE program proposals from Franklin, Hamilton, Montgomery, Lorain, Lucas, and Summit counties.
“It’s important, we’ve got an aging population, and when you can look at ways to better serve that population, we’re all going to be better off,” said State Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R., Bowling Green), who attended the discussion Monday.
She added that expanding PACE could improve quality of life for seniors by allowing them more time to stay at home and by providing access to more comprehensive healthcare needs.
The bill currently stands in committee in the State House and would need passage from both chambers before being signed into law.
submitted by TREVOR HUBERT, Toledo Blade