State of Alabama Independent Living (SAIL) service consumers statewide will soon have an option to play a much bigger role in making decisions concerning their own personal care.
Set to roll out Oct. 1, Personal Choices will allow Medicaid waiver participants to choose whom to hire as their personal care attendants, when those attendants will work, and how much they will be paid, said SAIL Program Specialist Kathy Fountain.
“Under this program, the client is essentially the employer,” Fountain said. “Our consumers are given a budget. With that budget, they choose what kinds of services they need in the home and when they need them. They hire and train their attendants how they see fit, and they even set their wage.”
Personal care attendants typically make between $8 and $9 an hour. With Personal Choices, attendant care wages may be as high as $11 an hour, Fountain said.
The Personal Choices model also has an added benefit over SAIL’s traditional care model. Consumers are allowed to bank up to 1.5 times their allotted budget into a savings plan to save for qualified goods or services not typically covered by Medicaid. The savings plan may also be expanded above that amount if the consumer is approved to save for a particular item.
Tuscaloosa SAIL is currently serving 67 clients across 13 counties as part of a pilot program which began in April 2012, said Denise Brazeal, financial manager for Personal Choices .
“Our clients absolutely love it,” she said. “When the client is the boss and there is no vendor middleman, our clients have greater freedoms in deciding what their attendants can and cannot do. Before, vendors would impose liability issues which would prevent attendants from driving a consumer to the grocery store. Personal Choices makes that possible again.”
Brazeal said that the savings plan offered through Personal Choices has had the greatest impact on consumers and is a game changer.
“Dental work is probably the biggest item requested,” Brazeal said. “Medicaid doesn’t cover it, but they will with this program. I’ve had clients save to have teeth pulled, others for dentures.”
In the end, this unique independent living program is helping make SAIL clients live more independently in a number of ways.
“The clients are responsible,” said Fountain. “With this program, they manage most everything regarding their care.”