February 25, 2021

Assembly Member Adrin Nazarian
Chair, Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care
Legislative Office Building
1020 N Street, Room 153
Sacramento, CA 95814

Assembly Member Randy Voepel
Vice Chair, Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care
Legislative Office Building
1020 N Street, Room 153
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: Assembly Bill (AB) 523: Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)

Dear Assembly Members Nazarian and Voepel:

On behalf of WelbeHealth, I am writing to express support for Assembly Bill (AB) 523 which would require the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to make PACE flexibilities approved during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) permanent.

WelbeHealth utilized regulatory flexibilities extended to PACE by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and DHCS during the pandemic to adapt our services that are normally delivered in-person. This includes more extensive use of telehealth for enrollment and participant assessments; skilled nursing care in participants’ homes; and better facilitate referrals from hospital and nursing facility discharge planners.

These measures helped us manage exposure to COVID-19 among our participants and staff. In fact, PACE has proven dramatically safer for seniors during the pandemic, with 85-95 percent lower infection and mortality rates than nursing facilities, based on our analysis of WelbeHealth participants as well as data from the National PACE Association, the California PACE Association, and the California Department of Public Health.

To boost choice, comfort, and access for our vulnerable population, WelbeHealth strongly supports continuing flexibilities beyond the PHE. With these flexibilities we can:

  • Enhance consumer choice with the opportunity to undergo an assessment or receive
    services remotely, should that be more comfortable for them;
  • Make the PACE program more accessible for consumers residing in rural communities
    with long travel times; and
  • Ensure existing and potential PACE participants who continue to be apprehensive about
    in-person contact and may want to reduce the frequency of in-person contact.

With expanded flexibility offered by AB 523, PACE Organizations will be able to enhance access to this highly effective model of care.

Respectfully,

Elizabeth Carty
Chief Regulatory Affairs Officer
WelbeHealth