The Mississippi Independent Living (IL) Waiver is a statewide program for those who are a minimum of 16 years of age who have impairments that are neurological or orthopedic in nature. These individuals require nursing home level care and would need to be institutionalized if not for assistance provided by this program.
While the IL Waiver is not intended solely for seniors, there are many diagnoses that may qualify an elderly individual. Examples that are common among the elderly are arthritis, osteoarthritis, joint fractures, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Lewy Body Dementia. Via this waiver, supports and benefits, such as home modifications, specialized medical equipment, and personal care assistance, are provided that allow the individual to continue to live in the community, rather than need to be placed in a nursing home.
Participant direction, also referred to as “consumer direction” or “self-direction,” is permitted with personal care services and is a huge benefit for many families. This means eligible applicants may hire, train, and manage the personal care attendant of their choosing, including select relatives. Via the Independent Living Waiver, care recipients direct their own care with the aid of their case manager through what is called a co-participant service model. Individuals can still hire the person of their choosing, but they do not have to be responsible for the financial aspect.
This waiver is administered by the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Division of Medicaid.
Applicants must be residents of Mississippi, a minimum of 16 years old, and have a serious impairment that is neurological or orthopedic. There are also financial eligibility requirements for applicants of the IL Waiver, which differ for married or single applicants.
In addition, there are also requirements for personal care attendants, which is of particular importance if an eligible applicant would like to hire a relative to provide care.
Income Limits: Single Applicant
In 2023, single, divorced, or widowed applicants are permitted a maximum of $2,742 per month in income. This figure is equivalent to 300% of the current Federal Benefit Rate (FBR).
Asset Limits: Single Applicant
Applicants are also limited by their countable (non-exempt) assets. In 2023, single applicants are allowed up to $4,000 in assets. However, certain assets are exempt (not counted toward the asset limit). Exempt assets include a home, vehicle, home furnishings, irrevocable funeral trusts, and other personal items. Note, in 2023, the home is exempt only if the value of the owner’s home equity is less than $688,000.
Income Limits: Married Applicant
Married applicants, with both spouses applying for the IL Medicaid Waiver, will have their incomes evaluated separately. Meaning, each applicant is allowed up to $2,742 per month in income.
If only one spouse is applying and the non-applicant spouse (also referred to as the “community spouse”) does not have income, or has very little income, the applicant spouse is able to transfer some of his or her income to the non-applicant spouse. As of 2023, up to $3,715.50 a month in income can be transferred to the community spouse. In Medicaid-speak, this is referred to as the Monthly Maintenance Needs Allowance.
Asset Limits: Married Applicant
Asset calculations are more complex, and for Medicaid purposes, assets are considered jointly owned. When both spouses are applicants, they are allowed a total of $6,000 in countable assets. However, when only one spouse is applying, the applicant spouse is limited to $2,000, while the non-applicant spouse can have up to $148,620 in assets. This is called the Community Spouse Resource Allowance.
Persons who exceed these financial limits can still become Medicaid eligible by re-structuring their finances to meet the guidelines. This is called Medicaid planning, and there are both public and private professionals who can help. Read more.
However, Medicaid has a 60-month look-back period in which all transfers within this time frame are scrutinized. Assets are not allowed to be gifted or sold for less than their value in order to meet financial requirements, otherwise the individual will be penalized with a period of Medicaid ineligibility. Because of this rule, it is strongly advised that an applicant consult a Medicaid planner if they are wishing to re-allocate assets.
Personal Care Attendants must meet the following requirements:
Please note, a relative may be hired as a personal care attendant given he or she is not the spouse or a family member who is legally responsible for the participant. Examples of eligible family members who can receive compensation as a caregiver include sons, daughters, son-in-laws, daughter-in-laws, siblings, and grandchildren, given they don’t live in the same home as the IL Waiver recipient.
The following benefits are available via the IL Waiver. Note that eligibility for the waiver does not automatically mean all participants are eligible for all benefits.
More information about the Independent Living Waiver can be found on Mississippi’s Division of Medicaid website.
To apply for the Independent Living Waiver, applicants can contact the Department of Rehabilitation Services at 800-443-1000. Or one can find their district office’s location and contact info here.