Health care program targets low-income elders

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(Host) State health care officials say a new pilot program specifically targeted to elderly, low income Vermonters will provide more cost effective and user friendly health care. The program – known as PACE – will initially operate clinics in Chittenden and Rutland Counties.

VPR’s Nina Keck has more.

(Keck) PACE stands for Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. And while it’s been successfully operating in larger, urban centers for almost thirty years, a federal push to improve health care in rural areas, has brought the program to Vermont. Sue Watson is PACE Vermont’s executive Director.

(Watson) “People take fewer medications when enrolled in PACE. They have far fewer hospitalizations and they are institutionalized at a significantly lower rate than the normal population.”

(Keck) Watson says the idea is to make it easier for older, low income Vermonters to get all the care they need in one place. To do that, PACE centers will employ or contract with local primary care physicians, specialists, pharmacists and therapists. Social workers, local nursing homes and hospitals will also be involved and PACE will handle all the communication between providers – even providing transportation to and from appointments if needed.

(Watson) “When you compare someone enrolled as a PACE individual to the usual and customary health care, they have better clinical outcomes because of that collaborative very coordinated care that involves the individual.”

(Keck) Watson says healthier patients are less likely to visit emergency rooms, or spend time in hospitals and nursing homes which means huge savings in health care dollars.

Medicare and Medicaid has currently negotiated to pay a flat monthly fee of $5,000 for each person enrolled in PACE.

The state’s first PACE center in Colchester is nearly finished and should be accepting applicants by the first of the year. Organizers broke ground last week on a site in Rutland. Initial funding of $2.3 million has come from a variety of state, federal and private sources.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Nina Keck.

(Host) The PACE program is designed specifically for very frail elderly people, with multiple medical needs.

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