Nurse helping older African American woman

The Bipartisan Policy Center urged Washington on Wednesday to expand Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). In a lengthy report, the Washington-based think tank said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services should expand PACE geographically, enroll more seniors, demonstrate its value and increase consumer awareness for the program.

The report’s authors made a laundry list of suggestions to accomplish expansion, such as streamlining the approval process for new PACE centers, providing grants to regions trying to establish the program, allowing Medicare-only PACE participants the choice to enroll in either a qualifying, standalone Part D plan or the PACE Part D plan, and providing more transparency of the program by publicly posting quality improvements of individual programs.

Implementation of the recommendations would result in a $38 million one-time cost to the federal government and approximately $12 million annually, according to the report’s authors.

“Estimated costs could be slightly offset over the long term through potential savings from reduced hospitalizations, emergency department use, and institutional care,” the report stated. 

The  National Pace Association, which has long advocated for an expansion of the program, hailed the recommendations.

“This report is a major step forward in advancing better care options for older adults, providing a clear path forward for Congress and the administration to expand access to PACE,” Peter Fitzgerald, NPA executive vice president of policy and strategy, said in a statement. 

PACE allows dually eligible Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries to live independently and use PACE centers to socialize, receive medical care and meals. The program is currently available in 31 states and serves about 50,000 people. 

Momentum has been building to expand PACE since President Joe Biden rolled out plans early last year to funnel millions into home-and-community-based services. Last spring, Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the PACE Plus Act which included some of the recommendations in the Bipartisan Policy Center’s report. Some PACE programs also have been lobbying CMS to allow Medicare-only beneficiaries into the program for a fee.