Arkansas Independent Choices Program

Page Reviewed / Updated - Mar. 2015

What is a Medicaid Waiver?
For persons with limited financial resources, Medicaid pays for nursing home care. For those who wish to live at home or in assisted living, sometimes Medicaid will pay for care in those locations if it can be obtained at a lower cost than in a nursing home. It does this through "Medicaid Waivers," which are also called Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waivers or Waiver Funded Services.

Waiver Description

The Arkansas Independent Choices Waiver follows the Cash and Counseling model. This means that the program grants qualifying state residents a monthly cash allowance to use on their care. The program staff also provides counseling should the recipient or their legal representative require further guidance on how to make use of the funds. Typically, program participants elect to spend the funds on their personal care at home or in an assisted living residence. Also sometimes called consumer direction or participant direction, the waiver allows those, who are able, to reside outside of a nursing home.

 Family members can be hired and paid to provide personal care services.

An element of the Independent Choices program that makes it particularly attractive to many individuals is that certain family members can be hired and paid to provide personal care services. While one’s spouse and legal guardian cannot be hired, other family members including the adult children of aging parents can be paid for providing care.  The hourly rate that these caregivers are paid is regulated by Medicaid.  The average rate for home care in Arkansas is $17 / hr and the Medicaid rate would be somewhere below that amount.

 Two other Arkansas Medicaid programs that may be relevant to persons interested in this program are the ElderChoices Waiver and the Assisted Living Waiver.

 

Eligibility Guidelines

Arkansas' Independent Choices qualifies adult participants using multiple criteria:

Age - the applicant must be at least 18 years old

Disability Status - the applicant must have a medical need for personal care services and require assistance with their activities of daily living.

Residency - the applicant must legal reside in Arkansas

Financial Status - the applicant must meet the 2015 Medicaid financial eligibility guidelines: monthly income of less than $2,199 and countable assets valued at less than $2,000.  These limits are for single applicants.

Married couples in which one spouse is not applying for Independent Choices or Medicaid have considerably more latitude with regards to their finances as they can allocate mutual resources and income to their husband or wife in special allowances called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance and the Minimum Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance. For 2015, the community spouse can have up to $2,980.50 / month income and up to $119,420 in countable resources.

Married couples where one of them is an applicant and individual applicants uncertain whether they meet the financial criteria should consider working with a Medicaid planner. With married couples it is important to make sure the non-applicant spouse is given the maximum resources on which to live. With single applicants who don't qualify but still can't afford their care costs, Medicaid planners can help re-distribute their income into qualifying trusts and convert their countable assets into exempt ones thereby making them Medicaid compliant. Find assistance qualifying for Medicaid.

 

Benefits and Services

There are 3 categories of personal care related expenses that are paid for by the Independent Choices program.

1) Personal Assistance Services – any assistance provided by a person that helps the program participant to accomplish their activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, eating and personal hygiene.

2) Products and Services that Increase Independence – these are goods and services that contribute towards decreasing the program participant’s reliance on other persons such as remote controls for operating lighting or household appliances as well as technology-enabled services such as personal emergency response and remote monitoring.

3) Home Modifications and Assistive Technologies – participants can save their monthly compensation to put towards the purchase of higher cost items or services, such as wheelchair ramps, stair-glides, walk-in tubs and other modifications that increase their ability to live independently.

 

How to Apply / Learn More

Applicants can live anyway within the state. Interested families should contact the Independence Choices program directly for more information and to apply. At the time of writing the Arkansas Independent Choice website was still under construction. However, they can be reached by calling at 501-320-6581 or via their toll free line at 888-682-0044.