House advances Walorski’s bill to provide at-home care for America’s elderly

U.S. House approval of bipartisan legislation sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-IN) is now a step closer to allowing for the nation’s senior citizens to receive at-home medical care.

The Comprehensive Care for Seniors Act of 2018, H.R. 6561, which Rep. Walorski introduced on July 26, received unanimous voice vote approval on Sept. 12 by House members.

H.R. 6561 would improve Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which allow senior citizens with complex medical needs to continue living at home. Cosponsors of the House version include U.S. Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL).

In the U.S. Senate, Sens. Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced the identical S. 3338 on Aug. 1 along with U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), among others.

The measure specifically would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to finalize updated regulations for PACE programs by the end of 2018. The programs utilize a proven model for delivering high-quality, comprehensive, integrated, and coordinated community-based health care to seniors and individuals with disabilities who meet the criteria for nursing home care but wish to live at home, according to a summary provided by Rep. Walorski’s office.

“The PACE program is a proven model for delivering high-quality, comprehensive, community-based health care for seniors,” the congresswoman said on the House floor prior to members’ votes. “It helps seniors whose health conditions would otherwise land them in a nursing home to remain in their own homes for as long as possible by allowing them to see health professionals and social service providers at local PACE centers.”

Rep. Walorski noted that 124 PACE organizations across 31 states currently serve more than 45,000 Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, “enabling them to live safely in the community through the fully integrated services and supports provided.”

“This allows beneficiaries to live longer, experience better health, and have fewer hospital visits,” she said.

CMS in 2016 proposed a rule to update the original 2006 program guidelines and despite requests in 2017 and this summer from members of Congress for CMS to prioritize changes to the existing regulatory framework, Rep. Walorski said, “The agency has unfortunately not taken any action.”

The House-approved legislation would move forward on this front and permit PACE programs to customize their interdisciplinary teams around each enrollee’s needs, increase community services and provide more flexibility for them to partner with community providers, she said.

H.R. 6561 now advances to the Senate for consideration.