TennCare Launches CHOICES in Long-Term Care Program Statewide

Monday, August 02, 2010 | 09:02 am

Program Allows More Tenneseeans to Receive Long-Term Care Services in the Home

NASHVILLE — TennCare officials announced today the launch of the TennCare CHOICES in Long-Term Care program in East and West Tennessee, completing the statewide restructuring of long-term care service delivery within TennCare. The CHOICES program offers more home-based options for meeting the long-term care needs of the state’s elderly and adults with physical disabilities, reducing reliance on more costly nursing facility care. It also offers a simpler process for accessing these more economical services.

“The growing need for long-term care services is a situation many Tennesseans face every day, and the number of people who will require services is expected to triple in the coming decades,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “That’s why it’s increasingly important to offer cost-effective services that are designed to support existing care provided by family, friends and others in the community. I’m pleased that, through the CHOICES program, Tennessee can now offer more elderly and disabled residents an expanded set of choices about the kinds of services they receive, and the opportunity to choose where those services are provided and who provides them.”

Less than a decade ago, TennCare only provided a few hundred people care with home- and community-based services (HCBS). Great strides have been made in the past few years, and through program expansion, TennCare was able to serve 6,000 Tennesseans in the home and community through an HCBS waiver program. Under Governor Bredesen’s leadership and with the support of the General Assembly, the Bureau has restructured its long-term care program and has the ability to serve more than 9,500 individuals with HCBS through the CHOICES program. CHOICES now has the potential to nearly double the number of people receiving services in the home and community in the first year – all while using existing state dollars.

It has long been a goal of the Bureau to deliver a more balanced long-term care system structured on the needs and preferences of the people receiving those services, allowing limited dollars to be stretched further while serving more people. A decade ago, less than two percent of TennCare long-term care funding was spent on HCBS; that increased to about ten percent in 2009. TennCare expects that re-balancing to continue. 

CHOICES is able to stretch existing funding further because in-home care, on average, is more cost-effective than nursing home care. The program will also better meet the needs of its members because most people prefer to receive care in their homes. CHOICES will allow members to receive care in the home and community, as long as their needs can be met safely, and the total cost of those services does not exceed the cost of comparable nursing home care.

The CHOICES program was launched in Middle Tennessee on March 1, 2010, and 40 percent of new members in TennCare’s long-term care program are being served in their homes and in the community. This allows TennCare to focus nursing home services, which remain an integral part of the long-term care continuum, to care for those with the greatest need.  

“We are excited to see that Tennesseans are now getting the CHOICES that allow them to live full, productive lives in settings they want,’’ said AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly. “AARP volunteers from across the state worked passionately on this issue for more than a decade, and we are grateful that Governor Bredesen made it a priority. We are eager to continue working with state officials and others to ensure that people receive the right care in the right place at the right time.”

CHOICES services include help doing everyday activities that people may no longer be able to do for themselves as they grow older or if they have a physical disability – like bathing, dressing, preparing meals or doing household chores. These services can also include care in a nursing home. To be eligible for CHOICES you must need the level of care provided in a nursing home and qualify for Medicaid long-term care. If you are receiving care in the home, the total cost of that care must be equal to or less than care you would receive in a nursing home.

For more information about the CHOICES program, contact your TennCare health plan or call your local Area Agency on Aging and Disability (AAAD) at 1-866-836-6678. You can also visit www.tn.gov/tenncare/CHOICES.