Senior Fellow, National Academy of Social Insurance
Each summer, NASI’s Somers Aging and Long-Term Care Research Internship program selects 5-7 graduate students to spend 12 weeks receiving high-quality training in policy research skills on challenging issues facing the diverse aging population of the United States.
This year’s interns wrestled with the reality of cost, care, and service when they visited two dramatically different programs in and outside of Baltimore. The first one, PACE – the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly, is funded by the federal government for low-income persons over 55 who need help to remain at home. The second program, Collington is a private continuing care retirement community (CCRC), at which the relatively affluent have chosen to live in a senior community where they can get all levels of care.
The interns’ wrote follow-up essays on how to provide affordable care for millions of people while preserving their independence without breaking their pocketbooks or bankrupting taxpayers. Here are some of their insights:
Choices Are Uncertain.
Elizabeth Cullar, Master’s student in social work, University of Baltimore
Research shows “seniors at CCRCs are more likely to be happier and healthier individuals than those who live in their own homes.” On the other hand, “There may be substantial argument that seniors involved in the PACE model may be as happy and healthy because they are surrounded by loved ones and others who by choice support their chosen lifestyles.”
The Big Middle Class Is Left Out.
Allessia P. Owens, Doctoral student in social work, Howard University
“Both models are committed to the long-term support of adults but they are on either extreme of the services and supports continuum. PACE is a service utilized by low income elders who want to remain in their family home while seniors that are more affluent use CCRC’s and the sale [of a] personal home to live in a senior community.”
Let’s Combine The Best Of Both.
April Wong, Masters student in health policy, Columbia University.
There should be “a care coordination system in CCRC settings. In this new model, an interdisciplinary team similar to that of PACE would decide on a care plan that uses the residents’ Medicare funds the most effectively and the most cost-effectively.”
They Are No Universal Solutions.
Laura Darlak, recent Bachelors graduate in Aging Studies, Ithaca College.
The programs “can be described as boutique models, not scalable or capable of meeting the demands of our aging population. The exclusivity of both models contributes to the boutique critique. ElderPlus and Collington, when viewed as mechanisms part of a larger healthcare system, fail to include middle class America.”
You Need More Than Medicine.
Jessica Moss, recent Bachelors graduate in psychology and public health, Brandies University.
“The structure of PACE allows for the care team to decide how best to use the money they have to keep patients healthy. The strength of PACE is that PACE has the freedom to use the capitations it receives for anything that benefits the health and well-being of enrollees. This could be something as simple as installing an air conditioning unit in an enrollee’s home.”
Money Makes The Difference And Provides The Risk.
Terrell D. Brown, Doctoral student in social work at Howard University.
“Given the ALL INCLUSIVE nature of the PACE program, not much is missing except their ability to impact a greater number of those in need of services, which is a policy/funding issue that needs to be addressed. Because of the hefty contractual financial obligation CCRCs require, what sometimes goes overlooked is the financial risks and/or safeguards for older adults taking and receive for taking such a risk.”
Strengths and Flaws in Each Approach.
Sadie Rubin, Masters student in social work, Columbia University
“The PACE and CCRC models of service each have strengths, while demonstrating weaknesses as well. As the PACE plan provides health care to those who may not be able to afford higher levels of care, they also run up against the weakness of their “boutique model” from a policy perspective. Similarly, as the CCRCs provide older adults with the security of knowing they are taken care of for the rest of their lives, they also run up against the weakness of their high costs and therefore limited accessibility to a broader population.”
What do YOU think? Did these students get the essence of the solution? How DO we provide affordable care for millions of people, preserving their independence, without breaking their pocketbooks or bankrupting the taxpayers?