Contact: Michelle West
(719) 476-3143

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, May 17, 2016 – A Colorado law passed in 2014 (HB 14-1358) received approval on January 22, 2016 from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) on changes that now allow spouses to receive reimbursement for providing In Home Support Services (IHSS). Now The Independence Center, an IHSS agency, is hiring spouses as paid caregivers of people with disabilities who otherwise would require a nursing facility level of care.

Colorado has two programs for participant-directed home and community based services (HCBS). HCBS waivers are Medicaid waivers that help people with disabilities of all ages remain independent within their own homes instead of a nursing home. Consumer Directed Attendant Support Services (CDASS) participants employ their own attendants, whereas In-Home Support Services (IHSS) participants use attendants that are employed by an IHSS agency, such as The Independence Center.

Previously, spouses could only be a paid caregiver under the CDASS program. While the CDASS program did pay spouses, it left the coordination up to the consumer and did not provide benefits. Now, spouses can be hired by an IHSS agency to provide all or part of the care.

“We have had people waiting up to two years to be able to become paid caregivers for their spouses. Under CDASS, spouses have always been able to be paid to provide that care. It was unfair that spouses couldn’t do the same thing under IHSS,” said Katey Castilla, director of The Independence Center home health department. “We’re absolutely thrilled that spouses can now be paid as employees and receive all the benefits of employment under IHSS for the care they provide.”

As soon as the CMS approval to Colorado law was processed, The Independence Center hired Kim Molinar as a caregiver for her husband Ralph. She had recently brought him home after an undiagnosed stroke left him quadriplegic. He requires round the clock care.

Molinar readily admits that without the Medicaid financial reimbursement she would still choose to care for Ralph, but that the provisions have made their lives much more financially comfortable. “It’s very rewarding to have your loved one at home. To see him at home, to be able to look over and know that he’s okay at any given time. It’s comforting. It’s a lot of work, though. It’s hard work.”

It was through her connection to The Independence Center that she learned she could now qualify to become a paid caregiver for her husband. “Once we got him home and we had the connection with The Independence Center all the time, The Independence Center notified me when changes to the law went into effect and we were able to start the paperwork immediately,” said Molinar.

As an employee of the IHSS agency, spousal caregivers can receive all the perks and benefits of being an employee. This means a person employed by an agency who is caring for their spouse can receive health and dental insurance, 401(k), and paid time off as offered by the particular employer. In addition to employment benefits for the caregiver spouse, an IHSS agency provides budget oversight and payroll management.

Patricia Yeager, CEO of The Independence Center said, “We are delighted to be able to support persons with disabilities and their spouses in a way that provides some measure of financial security during a very stressful time. In a time where we talk about increasing the quality of life for people with disabilities, this is one very tangible way of doing so.”