Health care options for low-income seniors and disabled

Seniors older than 65 who need a nursing home level of care have options, according to Arizona Long Term Care Services of Cottonwood. Many ALTCS participants live in their own homes or in an assisted living facility and receive needed in-home services.

Since funding comes from State and Federal dollars, there is financial and medical criteria that must be met, according to Anita Rocco, who is a Health Program Manager in the Cottonwood office.

Clients of ALTCS can include individuals of any age receiving Medicare, Social Security Disability, or are physically or developmentally disabled Arizona residents who cannot afford the skilled nursing level of health care they need. Qualifications for the ALTCS program are defined by meeting the medical and financial eligibility criteria, which includes monthly income and value of their resources.

The income limit for an individual is $2,130 per month including wages, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and pensions. Persons with AHCCCS-approved Special Income-only Trusts may have income in excess of this amount and still qualify.

An individual also may not have resources in excess of $2,000. Resources are possessions that could be redeemed for financial gain including cash, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and the like. That value limitation does not include a person's home, as long as it is a primary residence with an equity value of not more than $536,000, household possessions, one automobile, burial plot or irrevocable burial plans.

A higher income and resource limit applies to married couples. An ALTCS financial caseworker will determine if an applicant qualifies financially for the program.

Some applicants who receive Supplemental Security Income or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families may already qualify financially.

Medical eligibility is the primary deterrent for most families, according to Rocco. Applicants must need a level of care provided by a nursing home or facility of intermediate care for the cognitively disabled.

Those only needing "supervisory care" do not meet that level of need. A medical assessor will determine if the applicant meets the medical criteria.

ALTCS participants are covered for medical care, including doctor's office visits, hospitalization, lab work, and behavioral health services in addition to the financial assistance that helps cover the nursing home and assisted living facility costs.

Some ALTCS clients live at home or in a contracted nursing facility. Others may live in a contracted alternative residence such as an Adult or Child Foster Care Home, Assisted Living Center or Home, Adult Care Home or Group Homes for the Developmentally Disabled.

Those continuing to live at home will receive home and community-based services, allowing them to safely maintain their independence and quality of life with caregivers providing services in their home.

Other programs that pay your Medicare B premium, co-insurance and deductible are also available. These programs have a separate income limit and resources are not looked at for eligibility.

For additional information, call ALTCS in Cottonwood at 634-8101. The Verde Valley ALTCS office is located at 1 N. Main Street. Their fax # is 877-666-5208.

Anita Rocco, Health Program Manager, said applicants do not have to come in to the office at 1 N. Main St. to fill out the proper forms. "We can mail an application to you; take applications over the phone or by fax. Just about anyone, a family member, friend or neighbor, can apply on behalf of an applicant. Just give us a call."

Additional information regarding ALTCS program can be obtained at the AHCCCS public website http://azahcccs.gov.

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