Page Reviewed / Updated - January 25, 2020
The State of Alabama Independent Living (SAIL) Medicaid waiver, previously called the Homebound Waiver, is designed to help disabled individuals remain living in their homes (or the homes of loved ones) instead of moving into skilled nursing facilities. Elderly residents of Alabama are eligible for this HCBS (home and community based services) Medicaid waiver should they meet the financial and medical requirements. Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease meet the medical diagnosis requirements. To help an individual move out of nursing home care and back into the community, the waiver provides case management and may also pay for assistive technology, personal care services, and changes to the participant’s place of residence, such as making the home wheelchair accessible, in order to increase a disabled individual’s ability to live independently.
A Medicaid-certified home health agency must operate the personal care services unless there is no such service available in the individual’s geographic area. In this situation, the participant may select friends, neighbors, and some family members to be compensated for the personal care services they provide. However, children, spouses, and parents are barred from being paid as caregivers. Furthermore, there is an option for program participants to self-direct their own care via the Personal Choices Program. In some situations, adult children or spouses may be hired and paid as caregivers via Personal Choices.
The SAIL waiver is administered by the Alabama Medicaid Agency and is operated by the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS). To avoid confusion, note that the SAIL Medicaid waiver is one of three sub-programs of a larger program, also called SAIL. The other 2 sub-programs are Homebound Services, and Independent Living Support Services.
Another Alabama Medicaid program that might be of interest is the Elderly and Disabled Waiver.
To be eligible for the SAIL Medicaid waiver, an applicant must be a resident of Alabama, at least 18 years old, and have a physical disability that requires nursing home level care. This disability must not be related to aging and must have an onset before the age of 60.
While qualified applicants must require nursing home level care under this waiver, the individual lives at home or must be willing to move from a skilled nursing facility back to their home or that of a friend or family member. It is in this location where they will receive personal care and home health services. They cannot live in assisted living residences or adult foster care homes and be eligible for this waiver program.
Applicants must also be financially eligible. This means that they must demonstrate that their monthly income and current assets are below certain levels.
2020 Alabama Medicaid Waiver Income Limits
Individual applicants are limited to a monthly income of no more than $2,349, and for married couples in which both spouses are applying for benefits, the monthly income limit is $4,698. (Each spouse is considered as an individual applicant. Therefore, each spouse is allowed up to $2,349 / month in income). This figure is equivalent to 300% of the SSI Federal Benefit Rate. However, if the applicant is married and his/her spouse is not also applying for Medicaid, the applicant spouse can allocate some of his/her monthly income to the non-applicant spouse (also called the community spouse) as a living stipend. This is known as the minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance (MMMNA), and as of 7/1/19, up to $2,113.75 / month can be transferred from the applicant spouse to the non-applicant spouse. If the non-applicant spouse already has monthly income equal to, or above, this figure, a transfer of income is not permitted from the applicant spouse.
Individuals over the income limits for Alabama Medicaid can also set up a Qualified Income Trust (QIT). Often called Miller Trusts, applicants can become eligible for Medicaid once they demonstrate that the trust is properly set up and being administered correctly.
2020 Alabama Medicaid Waiver Asset Limits
The asset limit for a single applicant is $2,000, and the asset limit for a married couple in which both spouses are applying for benefits is $4,000. (Each spouse is considered as an individual applicant. Therefore, each spouse is allowed up to $2,000 in assets). In the situation where only one spouse of a married couple is applying for the SAIL waiver, the non-applicant spouse is permitted up to $128,640 in countable assets. This is known as the community spouse resource allowance (CSRA). Please note: The asset limit can be somewhat misleading in that many resources are, or can be, considered exempt (not counted towards the asset limit). For example, the full value of one’s home is exempt, provided the applicant or their spouse lives there, or a single applicant plans to return to the home, and it is valued under $595,000. A car, burial plots, burial fund up to $5,000, household items, and even some personal effects are also exempt.
Those over the asset limit need to exercise caution when “spending down” resources in order to meet Medicaid’s asset limit. Medicaid has a look back period (60-months in Alabama) in which Medicaid considers all past assets transferred within the specified timeframe. If an applicant is found to have given away assets or sold them for less than they are worth, the applicant will be penalized with a period of Medicaid ineligibility.
As implied by the words "Independent Living" in the Waiver name, the services provided under this waiver are selected to help participants achieve that objective.
One should contact the Alabama Medicaid office at 1-800-362-1504 to learn more about this waiver program and begin the application process. One can also learn more about the SAIL waiver here. While open to residents statewide, participation may be limited due to enrollment caps on the program. (At the time of this writing, participant wavier slots were capped at 660.) Also, the senior’s local Area Agency on Aging may be an additional information resource to learn whether this program is right for you or your loved one.