Pennsylvania Celebrates Four Decades of PACE Program Assisting Seniors with Prescription Costs

PACE ProgramCredit: Commonwealth Media Services

PENNSYLVANIA — This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Aging commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly (PACE) program. Established in 1983, the PACE program has become a national model for providing low-cost prescription medication to qualified seniors aged 65 and older.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly passed legislation that was signed into law by then-Governor Dick Thornburgh, creating the PACE program. It works in conjunction with Medicare Part D plans and other prescription drug plans such as retiree/union coverage, Medicare Advantage (HMO, PPO), and Veterans Benefits to lower out-of-pocket costs for medications.

“For the past four decades, the PACE Program has remained an important lifeline to help older Pennsylvanians save money on their prescription medications,” said Secretary of Aging Jason Kavulich. “Those savings have allowed our older adults to keep living independently in their own homes while also paying for other essential items such as food, bills, and mortgage or rent.”

Since its inception, PACE has assisted more than 1.6 million older adults, covering over 360 million prescriptions. The program has continued to evolve and expand, serving over 250,000 Pennsylvanians today.

In 1996, the PACE Needs Enhancement Tier (PACENET) was launched to cover seniors who have higher incomes than PACE enrollees, albeit with higher cost-sharing by the enrollee.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, PACE partnered with independent, chain, and institutional pharmacies to support the vaccination of 30,000 Pennsylvanians at facilities and in their homes. The same year, Pennsylvania pharmacies began dispensing naloxone kits through the Naloxone Copayment Assistance Program under the PACE network, dispensing 7,500 kits to date.

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In 2022, PACE collaborated with the PA Department of Health on a pilot program to provide financial assistance until June 2023 to help nearly 1,400 enrollees who use medical marijuana.

At the celebration held at the State Capitol, Secretary Kavulich and Tom Snedden, Director of PACE, were joined by PACE staff and legislators who have supported enhancements to the PACE Program to better support older adults. These included Senator Judy Ward, majority chair of the Senate Aging & Youth Committee; Senator Maria Collett, minority chair of the Senate Aging & Youth Committee; State Rep. Steven Mentzer, minority chair of the House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee; and State Representative Dan Williams, member of the House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee.

Senator Ward has sponsored legislation (S.B. 607) that would keep older adults eligible for PACE and PACENET if the maximum income limit is exceeded due to a Social Security cost-of-living-adjustment. State Representative Patty Kim, chair of the House Aging & Older Adult Services Committee, has sponsored similar legislation in the House.

“We are so grateful for the support and leadership of legislators and stakeholders of the past, present, and future. Our Commonwealth’s continued, undivided support for PACE signals our commitment to supporting the health and well-being of older adults as we promote a unique lottery-funded model that is the envy of other states,” concluded Secretary Kavulich.

Older adults can learn about the PACE Program, including how to qualify and enroll, by visiting the Department of Aging’s website.

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