Cong. Smith Receives National Public Service Award from PACE Senior Health Program
The National PACE Association (NPA) today presented Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04) with the NPA Public Service Award at its Spring Policy Forum in Washington. He received the award for his leadership in helping protect PACE—Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly—as an option for New Jersey seniors as the State works to reform its long-term care delivery system.
Smith helped launch the first Medicare-sponsored PACE in New Jersey, and the NPA selected him in recognition of his support of PACE and his contributions in New Jersey’s efforts to redesign its managed care plan and keep this health care option available for New Jersey senior citizens.
“Congressman Smith showed great vision in recognizing the importance of PACE as a proven comprehensive model of care for older adults,” NPA President and CEO Shawn Bloom said. “As states recognize the value of better integrating care to enable older adults to live in the community it is important that successful models of care like PACE be made available to more older adults and their families.”
Smith gave the following remarks at the presentation:
“I am humbled by and I thank you for this recognition. I remain deeply grateful for and extremely impressed by the work that you do to help medically vulnerable and frail seniors. In fact, PACE remains one of the most effective, compassionate, responsive and responsible health and well being initiatives ever.
“Designed to assist frail often indigent elderly and disabled persons in achieving managed independence and the avoidance of a trip to the nursing home, PACE significantly boosts the quality of life of ‘dual eligibles’ by ensuring that meds are taken on time and at the proper dose, access to nutritious food, prompt medical response to illness and disease and frequent opportunities to socialize—thus creating and renewing friendships that often lead to boatloads of opportunities to smile and laugh.
“Words are inadequate to convey the respect and admiration each of us in the community have for the leaders of St. Francis’ Living Independently for Elders (LIFE) and its visionary leadership—Jill Viggiano, Gerry Jablonowski, Christine Walley and their extraordinary staff and others who played critical roles including Ken Becker of Catholic Health East and Theresa Edelstein, Vice President of the New Jersey Hospital Association.
“When the very survival of St. Francis’ LIFE and the other PACE programs in New Jersey was at risk pursuant to a proposed comprehensive Medicaid Waiver, I was grateful to be part of the team that launched a full court press to inform and persuade state officials to retain this amazing program. A positive outcome was announced in mid-January—for which we are all grateful.”
Upon finalizing a three-way agreement among St. Francis Medical Center, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), LIFE was activated in 2009 and today serves 201 seniors. The first New Jersey PACE site, located on Liberty Street on the Hamilton-Trenton border and serving the residents of all of Mercer County and portions of northern Burlington County, is run by St. Francis Medical Center as LIFE. There are now three other PACE locations in New Jersey—Camden, Vineland and Jersey City—and others are likely to become available.
Smith worked with officials from St. Francis since 2007 to assist the hospital in joining the federal program that enables nursing home-eligible seniors to obtain all inclusive care, without having to move into a nursing home facility. PACE is funded through Medicare and Medicaid with over 80 such centers established throughout the country. Smith voted to create the program in 1997.
Using a team of doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other health experts, the LIFE program manages all the care of the patient for a set fee paid by Medicare and Medicaid, but also assumes full risk for whatever care is necessary. Patients can be brought into the center during the week for continuous monitoring. The center will also provide meals and recreation. Most importantly, members of the LIFE team will provide health care at the person’s home, including meals-to-go. St. Francis and other New Jersey PACE/LIFE providers hope to open new facilities to help meet the exploding need. Candidates must meet four main criteria. They must: be age 55 and up; live in the hospital’s service area; require a nursing home level of care, and; be physically able to live safely in their home.
For more information about PACE, visit the National PACE Association’s websites at www.npaonline.org or its fact sheet about the program, or the Medicare website at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/PACE/.