For qualified low-income seniors, SOURCE helps cover the costs of both medical care and non-medical personal care.
SOURCE is an acronym for Service Options Using Resources in a Community Environment. The program is designed for frail elderly and disabled Georgians who require the level of care typically provided in a nursing home. However, this program allows eligible individuals to receive care in their homes or communities (such as in assisted living facilities, also referred to as personal care homes) and avoid having to use long-term nursing home care. For some very low-income participants, this program provides both medical care and non-medical personal care services.
Originally this program was only available in certain areas of the state, but now it is open to residents statewide. As of 2021, approximately 19,000 Georgians receive assistance under this program. However, even with increased capacity, it is possible that a waiting list for services may exist. If an individual is already on Medicaid, the general enrollment time is two months.
This waiver is operated under Medicaid’s Elderly and Disabled Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Waiver and is administered by the Georgia Department of Community Health.
To be eligible for the SOURCE Waiver, an individual must be 65 years of age and older, or if he or she is under the age of 65, must be physically disabled. As the waiver is intended to divert individuals from nursing home placement, a requirement is that they need nursing home level care. To make this determination, an assessment must be completed.
Income and savings also play a role in the eligibility requirements. This Georgia Medicaid waiver has both income limits and financial resource (asset) limits. These criteria are slightly less restrictive than regular Georgia Medicaid for adults who do not require long-term care. For 2021, the income limit for an individual is $2,382 per month, which is three times the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) / Federal Benefit Rate (FBR). If the applicant is married and his/her spouse is not also applying for Medicaid, only the income in the name of the applicant is counted towards the income limit. That said, an applicant spouse is able to transfer a portion, or all, of his/her income to the non-applicant spouse. (A non-applicant spouse is also referred to as a community spouse). This is called a monthly maintenance needs allowance (MMNA), and as of 2021, up to $3,259.50 / month can be transferred to the healthy spouse.
The individual asset limit is $2,000, but several assets are considered “non-countable” or exempt. This includes the applicant’s home and the land the home is on, given the applicant lives in the home and his/her home equity interest is under $603,000 (in 2021) or a non-applicant spouse lives in the home. Other exempt assets include a burial contract up to $10,000, an automobile, life insurance policies with a face value up to $1,500, household goods, and personal items, such as clothing. “Countable” or non-exempt assets include total cash on hand, bank accounts (checking and savings), and other liquid (easily convertible to cash) investments and retirement accounts if not in payout status. Unlike income, a couple’s assets are considered jointly owned. (Learn more about Medicaid and joint assets here). Please note that there is an exception in Georgia; the individual retirement account of the applicant’s spouse is not counted. Also, the non-applicant spouse is permitted to retain up to $130,380 in financial resources. This is known as the Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA).
It is possible to receive Medicaid even if one’s income and / or assets are over the limit(s). Georgia residents who are over the income limit can create a Miller Trust, also called a Qualified Income Trust. With this option, money deposited into the trust no longer counts as income towards Medicaid eligibility. Another option is to purchase an annuity (converts a lump sum of cash into an income stream) or an irrevocable funeral trust so that one’s countable assets are reduced to within the acceptable limit. Persons hoping to qualify using these approaches should be aware that legal or financial expertise is strongly suggested. One can find Medicaid planning assistance here.
Services are determined on a case-by-case basis, and in addition to service coordination, can include any of the following:
More information about this program can be found on the Georgia SOURCE Factsheet. One can apply for the SOURCE waiver by calling 866-552-4464 or by contacting the local Department of Human Services, Division of Family and Children county offices. A list of contact information is available here.