Arkansas Independent Choices Program

Page Reviewed / Updated - Feb. 2014

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

This program is based on the Cash and Counseling model of providing personal care services. It enables Medicaid-qualified, Arkansas seniors and disabled individuals to direct their own personal care services.  Program participants receive a cash allowance and the necessary counseling to self-direct their personal care instead of receiving that care from the state Medicaid program directly.  To avoid confusion, it is worth mentioning that this type of care delivery model is often referred to as consumer direction or participant direction.

 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 which 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 which may be relevant to persons interested in this program are the ElderChoices Waiver and the Assisted Living Waiver.


Eligibility Guidelines

Arkansas' Independent Choices qualifies participants using multiple criteria.

Age - must be at least 18 years old

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

Residency - must be a legal resident of Arkansas

Financial Status - must meet the 2014 Medicaid financial eligibility guidelines: monthly income of less than $2,163 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 2014, the community spouse can have up to $2,931 / month income and up to $117,240 in countable resources.

Married couples with a single 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 service provided by a person that helps the program participant to manage 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 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

This program is available statewide and one should contact the Independence Choices program directly to apply. At the time of writing the Arkansas Independent Choice website was still under development. However, they can be reached by calling at 501-320-6581.