The Medicaid program in Arizona is called the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). The department under AHCCCS that serves elderly and disabled individuals with their long-term care needs is the Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS).
Instead of the Medicaid waiver system, which has participant enrollment caps, Arizona operates ALTCS differently than most states. Elderly and disabled residents are provided care, including nursing home care and home and community based services (HCBS), on a managed care model. Via this model, services and benefits are an entitlement, which means that anyone who meets the eligibility requirements is able to receive services.
When a Medicaid candidate is accepted into ALTCS, he or she meets with a caseworker to determine a health care plan that covers long-term care needs, including care in a variety of settings (i.e., home, nursing homes, adult foster care, and assisted living).
For the consumer, there are both positives and negatives to this managed care delivery model. The system simplifies logistics for the care recipient, as they work entirely with a single organization, and very likely, a single individual, for coordination of all care requirements. On the downside, the managed care model decreases flexibility and consumer choice. Critics have voiced concerns regarding access to geographically convenient, high quality services.
Self-Directed Care Options
Arizona offers three assistance programs for aging seniors that provide greater flexibility in choosing a care provider than ALTCS does. These include:
In order to be eligible for ALTCS, an individual must be a resident of Arizona who is over the age of 65 or have a recognized disability, such as being blind. ALTCS staff also considers the resident’s level of physical or mental impairment.
Applicants must need a level of care typically provided in a skilled nursing home or an intermediate care facility. To clarify, it is not necessary that they are currently receiving that level of care, only that they are assessed by Arizona Medicaid (AHCCCS) and found to need it.
Arizona follows a special set of rules to protect the financial security of a healthy spouse — also called the “community spouse,” “well spouse,” or “non-applicant spouse” — when his or her spouse needs long-term care. This means that the state will permit an applicant spouse to transfer income to a non-applicant spouse. This is commonly called a Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance, but in Arizona, it is called a Community Spouse Monthly Income Allowance (CSMIA). This spousal allowance protects the non-applicant spouse from having too little income from which to live. As of 2023, an applicant spouse may transfer up to $3,715.50 a month in income to his or her non-applicant spouse in order to bring his or her monthly income to this level.
It is still possible to qualify for ALTCS with income over the limit should the excess income be allocated to an income only trust, also called a Miller Trust. In Arizona, this type of trust is often called a Special Treatment Trust (STT). To learn more about Medicaid qualifying income trusts, one should contact a planning professional familiar with Arizona Medicaid.Asset Limits
As mentioned above, Arizona follows a special set of rules to protect the financial security of a non-applicant spouse when his or her spouse requires long-term care. This means that the state will permit a much higher level of resources to be held by the non-applicant when only one spouse is applying for Medicaid. For 2023, this amount may be as much as $148,620. In most states, this is called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA), but in Arizona it is called the Community Spouse Resource Deduction (CSRD). Please note that the applicant spouse is still able to keep up to $2,000 in assets.
Should one have more assets than the allowable limit, it is possible to convert countable assets into exempt ones, such as using funds to modify one’s home to be wheelchair accessible. By doing so, a person can lower their countable assets, and hence, meet Medicaid’s asset limit. This option is most likely to help those who are close to the limits and still cannot afford their cost of care. To consider how to restructure your financial assets, one should consult with a Medicaid planner. Simple errors can delay benefits and may disqualify an applicant from Medicaid.
It is important to note: Medicaid has a look-back period immediately preceding the date of one’s Medicaid application. In Arizona, this is a period of 60 months in which all past assets are reviewed to ensure that nothing was sold for less than it was worth or given away in order to meet Medicaid’s asset limit. If one is found to have violated this rule, a period of Medicaid ineligibility will ensue.
The benefits of ALTCS depend on the care environment where one resides. Nursing home residents, for example, receive a different level of support than those residing in assisted living or at home. Besides medical care, an ALTCS participant may receive the following care and assistive services:
The Arizona Long Term Care System is available in all counties of the state. To start an application, call your local ALTCS office or you can apply online. Persons can also contact ALTCS at 1-888-621-6880.
First it must be determined that the applicant meets the financial criteria, and if so, the process continues with a social worker conducting an in-person assessment of the applicant to determine the level of care needed.
To learn more about ALTCS, click here.