Washington Medicaid’s New Freedom Program

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

Aging residents of King or Pierce Counties have an additional option to help pay for home care. The New Freedom Medicaid waiver program is for individuals who require a nursing home level of care but choose to receive in-home services instead of moving into a skilled nursing facility.

The goal of the pilot program is to prevent costly institutionalization of the elderly and disabled. The program allows residents to safely continue residing at home while providing them a care services budget and a great deal of flexibility with regards to its allocation. This model of program is based on the Medicaid principle of Cash and Counseling, which is also referred to as consumer direction and participant direction.

 "Under New Freedom, even family members can be hired as caregivers."

New Freedom has the state and the individual in need of care working collaboratively to determine the care needs and the budget to fulfill those needs. Participating individuals are then given the control and flexibility to spend their budget on the goods and services they require and to choose care providers.  Because this program allows an elder to hire a family member as a caregiver, it is popular.  This model has the dual benefit of empowering the individual and reducing the administrative costs for the state. 

New Freedom is similar in services to the COPES and Community First Choice programs and has some overlap with Medicaid Personal Care. However, under New Freedom the program participant is given even greater flexibility with regards to how their care budget can be allocated. New Freedom is an alternative to these programs, participants cannot be concurrently enrolled in two or more programs.

This program is also referred to as New Freedom Consumer Directed Services or NFCDS. Washington State Department of Social and Health Services through their Aging and Long-Term Support Administration oversees this Medicaid waiver. 

Eligibility Guidelines

There are 3 types of requirements to participate in the New Freedom program: residential, functional and financial.

1) Residential – Currently program participants must reside in King or Pierce County and live at home (as opposed to residing in a nursing facility, assisted living residence, or an alternative care facility). 

2) Functional – participants must be assessed to require the level of care typically provided in a nursing home. A state social worker will conduct a standardized in-person interview of each new applicant to determine their needs. This assessment is known as the Comprehensive Assessment Reporting Evaluation, or CARE, for short.

3) Financial – participants must be eligible for Washington Medicaid, which considers income, assets and asset transfers. The current 2017 gross income limit is $2,205 per month and the asset limit for a single applicant is $2,000. Married individuals and persons with finances over these limits should consider finding Medicaid planning assistance as they may still be eligible but just require financial expertise to help them allocate their resources appropriately. Read more.

Benefits and Services

The objective of the New Freedom Program is to enable program participants to spend their care dollars as they best see fit. That said, the development of a care plan is a collaborative effort between the program participant and their Case Manager. It can include the following types of expenses:

1) Personal Assistance Services – help with Activities of Daily Living, such as bathing, grooming, mobility and eating and the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, such as housekeeping, cooking, meal planning and preparation, shopping for groceries and other essentials and assistance with transportation.

2) Goods and Supplies – to increase the elder’s independence. Examples include assistive technology, personal emergency response services, remote monitoring equipment and adaptive lighting.

3) Home and Vehicle Modifications – alterations to one’s home or car to accommodate for a disability, such as the addition of wheelchair ramps and lifts or grab bars.

4) Health Maintenance Support – medical, dental and vision care, physical, massage and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture.


How to Apply / Learn More

Residents of King and Pierce Counties, including, but not limited to, the cities of Seattle, Redmond, Bellevue, Tacoma, Puyallup, Kent, Lakewood, and Auburn, who believe that they meet the eligibility rules, should call the Home and Community Services eligibility line for their county.

King: 800-346-9257

Pierce: 800-442-5129

Also, families may contact their local Area Agency on Aging for further direction on the application process and to help address questions about the program. Waiting lists may exist for services and the application process can take between 30 and 60 days.