STAR+PLUS allows disabled adults and elderly Texans, age 65 or older, who require a nursing facility level of care to reside at home, adult foster care, or in assisted living residences and receive care services in those locations. Under this Medicaid waiver, both medical care and non-medical long-term care services are covered. Benefits such as personal care, adult day care, assistance for home modifications, and personal emergency response systems are available.
Some of these services are permitted as “Consumer Directed Services,” meaning the participant can choose his or her own personal caregiver. Friends and some family members are eligible to be hired as caregivers.
STAR+PLUS differs from other Texas Medicaid programs in that the services are provided by managed care organizations (MCO). There are specific MCOs in each county, and participants are given the choice to select their preferred provider. In September 2014, the STAR+PLUS waiver replaced the Community Based Alternatives (CBA) Waiver, and all former CBA waiver participants have completed a transition to STAR+PLUS.
The STAR+PLUS Waiver has financial and general restrictions.
Candidates must have a need for care services typically provided in nursing homes. This means they are unable to manage their activities of daily living without significant assistance or they require full time medical supervision. A more formal definition of nursing home level of care is available here. All candidates require an assessment of their needs.
The following is relevant for Texas residents age 65 or older in 2023. The monthly income limit for a single applicant to be eligible for STAR+PLUS from Texas Medicaid is $2,742. Calculated annually, applicants must earn less than $32,904.
For married applicants, the limits depend on whether both spouses are seeking Medicaid assistance. If the applicant is married and his/her spouse is not applying for Medicaid, the non-applicant spouse’s income is not considered for eligibility. In addition, the applicant spouse may be able to transfer monthly income up to $3,715.50 to his or her non-applying spouse. This is known as a “needs allowance.” It both ensures the non-applicant has sufficient monthly income and effectively lowers the applicant spouse’s countable income for eligibility purposes.
When both spouses are applying, they are allowed a combined monthly income of $5,484.Asset Limits
Texas residents who exceed these income and asset limits but still cannot afford their care costs still might qualify for this program by working with a Medicaid planning professional. They are trained to assist applicants who find themselves in this very situation and are well versed in reallocating income and assets so that it isn’t counted toward the limits. For instance, extra income can be deposited into a Miller Trust, also referred to as a Qualified Income Trust, and an Irrevocable Funeral Trust can be used to lower one’s countable assets.
STAR+PLUS allows family members to be hired to provide personal care. Spouses, however, are excluded.
Under STAR+PLUS, traditional health care and long-term care support are integrated. Accordingly, in addition to service coordination, the program helps pay for a broad range of medical and care services, including:
The STAR+PLUS program is available statewide. One can learn more about this program on the STAR+PLUS website or by contacting your local Area Agency on Aging. To apply for this waiver or Texas Medicaid (if not already enrolled), one should visit the Your Texas Benefits website.
A wait list for STAR+PLUS may exist, specifically for services provided at-home. Waiting times can be as long as a year and current nursing home Medicaid participants are prioritized over at-home applicants. If your loved one is in a Medicaid-funded nursing home on Medicaid and wants to return home or move to assisted living, you should contact a STAR+PLUS caseworker to discuss the options.