MT Montana Big Sky Waiver

Published on
July 13, 2023
Last updated
February 29, 2024
Written by
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Katie Wilkinson
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Discover how Montana's Big Sky Waiver (BSW) program supports elderly and disabled residents at risk of nursing home admission. Learn about Medicaid coverage and how to get paid for caregiving. 
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Montana's Big Sky Waiver (BSW) program plays a vital role in healthcare by offering essential support to elderly and disabled residents at risk of institutionalization, specifically nursing home admission. 

In this article, we explore the details of this Medicaid waiver program, shedding light on important aspects such as caregiver pay, Medicaid coverage, and the process of getting paid for caregiving. 

Overview of Montana's Big Sky Waiver (BSW)

The Montana Big Sky Waiver (BSW) program is a Medicaid waiver designed to provide crucial assistance to Montana residents who are elderly or disabled and face the risk of nursing home admission. 

The BSW program offers an alternative to institutional care by providing eligible individuals with services and financial assistance. 

The primary goals of the Big Sky Waiver program include:

  1. Preventing unnecessary institutionalization,
  2. Promoting community integration, 
  3. Ensuring that individuals receive the necessary support to live independently.

The program strives to enhance eligible participants' well-being and overall quality of life while maintaining cost-effectiveness and efficient use of Medicaid funds.


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Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for Montana's Big Sky Waiver (BSW) program, individuals must meet specific requirements encompassing income limits, disability criteria, and other relevant factors. While specific eligibility details can vary, here are factors to consider:

  1. Residency: Applicants must be Montana residents to qualify for the BSW program.
  2. Age or Disability: The program is available to individuals who are either elderly (typically 65 years or older) or have a disability that meets the criteria set by the program.
  3. Nursing Home Level of Care: Eligibility requires meeting the necessary level of care for nursing home admission but opting for home or community-based care instead.
  4. Financial Eligibility: The program considers the applicant's income and resources. For 2023, the income limit for single applicants of the Medicaid waiver is $914/month, while for married couples, each spouse can have up to $914/month if both are applicants. A minimum income allowance of $2,465/month allows the applicant's spouse to transfer income to the non-applicant spouse. The asset limit is $2,000 for single applicants, and for married couples, the non-applicant spouse can keep up to 50% of the couple's assets, with a maximum of $148,620. The home is considered exempt if the applicant lives there and has a spouse, a minor child, or a disabled child residing in the house. Be aware of the Look Back Rule, which penalizes asset transfers made within 60 months of applying for Medicaid.
  5. Medicaid Eligibility: BSW is a Medicaid program, so applicants must meet the general eligibility criteria for Medicaid coverage. 

Services and Supports

The program addresses the specific needs of individuals who prefer to receive care in a home-like environment with services and supports that include:

  1. Case Management: Participants are assigned a case manager who assists in developing and implementing an individualized care plan.
  2. Personal Care Assistance: Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, grooming, and meal preparation.
  3. Homemaker Services: Support for maintaining a clean and safe living environment, including light housekeeping tasks.
  4. Respite Care: Temporary relief for family caregivers, providing short-term care for the participant to give the caregiver a break.
  5. Home Health Services: Skilled nursing care, therapy services, and assistance with medication management.
  6. Assistive Technologies: Provision of devices or equipment that promote independence and safety, such as mobility aids or communication devices.
  7. Adult Day Services: Structured programs and social activities for participants in a community setting during the day.
  8. Transportation Assistance: Help to arrange and fund transportation for medical appointments or community activities.
  9. Behavioral Health Services: Mental health support, counseling, and therapy services tailored to individual needs.
  10. Home Modifications: Adaptations to the participant's home, such as wheelchair ramps or bathroom modifications, to enhance accessibility.

These services and supports provided by the BSW program aim to meet the diverse needs of eligible participants, ensuring they can receive care in their preferred setting while maintaining their independence and quality of life.


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Compensation for Caregivers

One significant aspect of the Montana Big Sky Waiver (BSW) program is the potential compensation for unpaid family caregivers.

To qualify for caregiver compensation, specific criteria must be met. These criteria typically include being a family member or close relative of the eligible participant, actively providing care, and meeting the program's eligibility requirements. The specific eligibility criteria for caregiver compensation may vary, and it is important to refer to the official guidelines or consult with program representatives for precise details.

The process for accessing caregiver compensation generally involves documentation and reporting procedures. Caregivers are typically required to maintain records of the care provided, including the tasks performed and the number of hours dedicated to caregiving. Some programs may also require caregivers to complete training or certification courses. These records and documentation indicate the caregiver's involvement and the level of care provided.

Caregivers must familiarize themselves with the reporting procedures and submit the documentation according to the program's guidelines. Regular reporting, typically monthly or quarterly, may be required to ensure accurate compensation for the caregiving services rendered.

We recommend caregivers consult the program's official resources or contact program representatives for detailed information on the compensation process, requirements, and necessary documentation.

Limitations and Challenges

While Montana's Big Sky Waiver (BSW) program offers valuable support to eligible individuals, it is important to acknowledge some limitations and challenges:

  1. Funding Constraints: Like many Medicaid programs, the BSW program may face funding limitations, impacting the availability and extent of services provided.
  2. Waiting Lists: Due to the program's popularity and limited resources, there may be waiting lists for enrollment, potentially causing delays in accessing services and support.
  3. Coverage Gaps: Certain specialized healthcare services or specific needs may not be fully covered by the program, leading to potential gaps in coverage that participants and their caregivers may need to address through alternative means.
  4. Caregiver Shortages: In some areas, there may be a need for more available caregivers, making it challenging to find and secure adequate caregiving assistance.

A Note from Givers

Caregiver recognition and support are vital for the well-being of caregivers and those they care for. If you provide caregiving services for your loved ones, fill out this form to determine your eligibility for caregiver compensation under the Big Sky Waiver program.

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