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Tennesseans Make New Choices for Care

Registered nurse Susan Eager checks the strength of a patient's grip while performing a home visit

John Moore/Getty Images

Since the statewide launch of the CHOICES program, more Tennesseans than ever before are able to receive long-term care services at home or in their neighborhoods. Administered by TennCare, the program allows Tennesseans greater flexibility in where and how they receive help with everyday necessities like meals and housekeeping, enabling them to remain in their homes if that is what they want.

CHOICES initially debuted in Middle Tennessee in March and then rolled out through the rest of the state Aug. 1. TennCare officials are encouraged that about 10 percent of the state’s long-term care funding is now going to home and community based services (HCBS). In past years, only 1 percent of funding went to HCBS, with the remainder going to nursing homes.

Since CHOICES began, about one in four folks entering the system have been choosing home and community-based services rather than nursing home care. That is expected to grow as people learn more about it and more providers begin offering services.

Perhaps even more exciting is that within the first six month of CHOICES, some 70 people were able to transition out of a nursing home and back to their home and communities.

There are still plenty of slots available. The state expects to have enrollment of at least 9,500 in the first year but can reach even more people due to changes in the way services are now provided.

“With CHOICES, if a person leaves the HCBS program, the slot can be filled immediately,” said TennCare long-term care chief Patti Killingsworth, who administers the program. “So, we have the capacity to serve some 11,000 Tennesseans in the community during the first year of the program alone should there be a need, all using existing long-term care funds.”

The new system allows the state to care for more people without spending more money because a few hours of home care are so much less expensive than nursing home care.

AARP Tennessee volunteers and staff advocated for the expansion of these types of services for more than a decade. “CHOICES represents a fundamental shift in the way Tennesseans receive this much needed help. We continue to monitor the program’s progress and help ensure people are aware of its availability,” said AARP Tennessee State Director Rebecca Kelly.

People who have not been eligible for TennCare in the past may be eligible for CHOICES.

To find out, contact your local Area Agency on Aging and Disability, which serves as the one-stop shop for anyone with questions about eligibility. The statewide toll-free number is 1.866.836.6678.

Those currently enrolled in TennCare can contact their managed care organization (MCO) for information about CHOICES.

For more information, download a fact sheet on the CHOICES program.

Read about CHOICES on TennCare's website.

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