Older residents in the Omaha area now can plug into a program new to Nebraska that provides the medical help they need to stay in their own homes rather than live in a nursing home.
Immanuel Pathways is opening the state's first PACE center Wednesday in a former grocery store space at 5755 Sorensen Parkway in north-central Omaha.
PACE stands for Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. It's a comprehensive program for frail older adults who meet their states' eligibility criteria for a nursing-home level of care.
People eligible for Medicaid only or both Medicare and Medicaid pay no monthly premiums and get all program services, including prescription drugs. Those who don't qualify for Medicaid also can enroll but are charged a monthly premium.
The 18,000-square-foot center on Sorensen is both an activity center where people can go during weekdays to meet with friends and a clinic where they can see health care providers.
Last year Immanuel Pathways opened a PACE center on North 16th Street in Council Bluffs. It now serves 60 people.
Wendy Schultz's 68-year-old mother, Judy Anderson, gets picked up at her Bluffs home three days a week and taken to the center.
Schultz said her mother, who is on oxygen full time and uses a wheelchair, enjoys the chance to socialize. She's also able to get physical therapy and help with bathing or personal hygiene needs.
“For me, as a family member and a caretaker of my mother, this has been the best thing ever,” Schultz said. “They take care of everything.”
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Schultz said, a center employee comes to Anderson's house to clean, wash dishes, do laundry and run errands. Center employees also drive Anderson to doctor appointments outside the center.
If not for the program, Schultz said, her mother would need home health care or be living in a nursing home.
“It's just such a godsend,” she said.
People who enroll in the program forgo their established Medicare benefit. The program receives a set payment per participant no matter how much service is provided, said Steve Hess, an Immanuel vice president.
“What we are responsible for is everything Medicare and Medicaid cover. Ever. Down to even transplants, if that was the case. We get no more money because they need more service.”
That, he said, means it is in the program's interests to keep the person as healthy as possible and out of the hospital or nursing home. So workers strive to prevent a member's minor health problems from becoming major ones, he said.
Hess noted that last July, the air conditioner in the Council Bluffs home of one program participant broke down. The heat worsened her chronic breathing problems, he said, so the next day, center officials paid $400 to buy a new air conditioner and install it in the woman's apartment.
“For $400, we avoided a potential emergency room visit” that would have cost $5,000, Hess said. Traditional health insurance wouldn't have covered the cost of the air conditioner, he said.
When the Omaha center opens, 93 PACE organizations in 30 states will serve approximately 29,000 people, according to the National PACE Association. In a study, the group found that the program provides care for a cost that's 15 percent less per person, on average, than what state Medicaid programs otherwise would incur.
The ribbon-cutting for the Omaha center is set for May 7.
Immanuel also owns and operates seven independent and assisted-living communities in Omaha, Papillion and Lincoln.
For more information about the program, call 402-991-0330.
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