Kim bill to extend PACE/PACENET benefits clears House committee

HARRISBURG, June 7 – Today, legislation (H.B. 1184) introduced by state Rep. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, to extend the Social Security cost-of-living adjustment moratorium when determining eligibility for the state’s prescription drug programs for seniors was approved by the House Aging and Older Adult Services Committee.

“This bill represents a crucial step in safeguarding the health and well-being of Pennsylvania's elderly population, ensuring they can continue to access essential medications through the PACE and PACENET programs without undue financial burden,” Kim said. “By providing essential resources, healthcare, and social support, we ensure that our seniors can age gracefully, maintain their independence, and continue to thrive within their communities.”

Currently, PACE and PACENET programs benefit approximately 231,000 older Pennsylvanians, offering critical support and access to vital medications. However, as Social Security COLA increases occur, some individuals face the unintended consequence of exceeding income eligibility thresholds, rendering them ineligible for these programs.

Thanks to the last extension in 2021, approximately 10,000 PACE and PACENET cardholders were able to retain their benefits despite Social Security COLA increases. However, this moratorium is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2023.

According to Kim, the projected 8.7% Social Security COLA for 2023 could unfortunately result in almost 29,400 older adults losing their benefits due to exceeding eligibility limits. Recognizing this imminent challenge, Kim proposed extending the current Social Security COLA moratorium until Dec. 31, 2025.

The proposed extension would be made possible through a combination of existing Lottery Fund revenues, additional savings generated by federal changes that introduced a "donut hole" discount in Medicare Part D, and increased rebates for both brand and generic pharmaceuticals.

Kim expressed her commitment to protecting vulnerable seniors, stating, "Our premier prescription drug assistance programs have provided a lifeline to thousands of older Pennsylvanians. It is our duty to extend this assistance and alleviate the worries of those facing ineligibility due to Social Security COLA increases. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation, which will have a profound and positive impact on the lives of nearly 29,400 more seniors."