Medicaid? TennCare? CHOICES? – What’s the Difference?

Julia Keck Price, Elder Law Attorney

What do all these words mean? Long before my ELET days, when my grandmother was admitted to a nursing home for rehab, a therapist asked me if I was going to apply for TennCare for her. I said no, she has Medicare and Tricare, she doesn’t need insurance. A social services person told me that I should apply for Medicaid. The business office then asked if I was going to apply for CHOICES. I was so confused. Here I was at this incredibly stressful time in our family, and all these different people kept asking me about all these different programs. I had no idea which way to proceed.

It took me a long time to figure out that all these people were talking about the same thing. They were talking about one program. TennCare CHOICES is Tennessee’s Medicaid program that pays for long-term care in nursing homes, private residences, or assisted living facilities.

There are other “buckets” under the TennCare Medicaid “umbrella,” but it is likely that if you’re in a facility and a staff member uses any of those three words, they are talking about the same thing.

My advice:  if you are making decisions for a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living, or if you think your loved one may need facility care, reach out for help from a qualified professional. That kind of decision-making can be a huge burden, and the nuances of the programs that help pay for care are not for the faint of heart. Lots of families make poor decisions at these stressful times, and those decisions can be costly. An elder law attorney familiar with the ins and outs of Medicaid/TennCare/CHOICES can help set you on the right path and save money.