Federal day-care program allows seniors to avoid costly hospital stays

A federal program is helping seniors stay in their homes and avoid expensive hospital and nursing home stays, reports Kaiser Health News. The Program for All-Inclusive Care for Elderly (PACE) is a government-subsidized day-care program that provides comprehensive medical and social services to low-income seniors with serious health issues.

The program's main appeal is that it allows the elderly to remain independent while they manage their health, Terry Smith, director of long-term care at the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, told the newspaper.

Under the program, the state and federal government give PACE sponsors monthly funds to deliver all aspects of care, not just Medicaid- and Medicare-covered services. ElderPlus--a PACE-affiliated program in Baltimore--offers enrollees access to a clinic, a pharmacy, an adult day-care center, a dining hall and vans for transportation to and from home.

More than 23,000 people are currently enrolled in PACE at 166 sites in 29 states, with 57 percent of sponsors planning to expand, according to the National PACE Association. "I think expansion of PACE is a great idea, and even more important is building PACE principles," CMS Administrator Donald Berwick told KHN.

So far, Virginia has six PACE sites and plans to open four more. The reason: According to state officials, the cost to the state of a person getting Medicaid and Medicare through PACE is about $4,200 less per year than that of a similar person getting Medicaid services at home or in a nursing home, notes KHN.

A new study published last month in the Journal of the American Medical Association offers some validation, as it found PACE was one of the more cost effective, alternative models to traditional long term care, notes Senior Housing News.

For more:
- read this Kaiser Health News/Washington Post article
- check out the study in JAMA