Although it wasn’t as much as expected, the $150 billion dollars the Biden administration and House Democrats negotiated in the budget deal Thursday for home-and-community-based services could expand Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly. 

Maureen Hewitt, President and CEO of Denver-based PACE operator InnovAge, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse in an email the money is a big win for PACE.

Maureen Hewitt

“The $150 billion investment in home-and-community-based services is strong acknowledgement of the support this administration is providing to communities across the country,” Hewitt said. “COVID has taught us all that models like PACE provide high-quality care that nursing home eligible seniors need to live in their homes and communities for as long as it is safely possible.”

Scott LaRue, president and CEO of New York City’s ArchCare Senior Life PACE, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse in an email he is also encouraged by the funding.

“ArchCare is well positioned through our commitment to the PACE program — a holistic program that provides services in the home, or at a center located conveniently in the community — to continue to meet the needs of the vulnerable. We are working with elected officials, including Senator (Chuck) Schumer’s office, to ensure that PACE is included in this funding.”

PACE is a Medicare and Medicaid-funded program that keeps people over age 55 — who need skilled nursing care — in their homes. The program provides medical care, therapy, meals and socialization at PACE centers. PACE currently operates in 31 states, but only serves about 55,000 clients. Nonprofit healthcare consultant Altarum estimates up to 12 million Americans over age 65 could benefit from PACE..

Competition for Medicaid dollars is part of the reason PACE has been slow to expand. Last spring, the Biden administration proposed $400 billion for HCBS. Many PACE supporters saw that robust funding as the answer to the PACE program’s expansion problems.

Still, the $150 billion in HCBS funding could provide a big boost to PACE.  Support for the program is also growing. Mike King, newly elected board chairman for senior services nonprofit LeadingAge, recently told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse he wants to see PACE grow nationally. His home state of Texas has yet to fund the program.

“I would have had my mom in a PACE program in a heartbeat if it had been around,” King said. “I think every state should be funding PACE. This is not a political thing, this is a quality of life thing.”

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), who introduced the PACE Plus Act last spring to expand the program, continues to remain bullish on PACE.

Sen. Bob Casey headshot
Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA)

“President Biden’s Build Back Better framework makes a historic investment to help more seniors and people with disabilities receive care at home,” Casey told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse in a statement. “This may include an individual’s home or other community settings, such as a PACE center. I will continue to fight to allow more Americans to live and age independently in the setting of their choice.”