PA OBRA Waiver

Published on
July 27, 2023
Last updated
February 29, 2024
Written by
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Katie Wilkinson
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The OBRA Waiver is a Medicaid Home and Community Based program in Pennsylvania that supports individuals with severe developmental physical disabilities to live independently and compensates unpaid family caregivers through a self-directed option.
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The OBRA Waiver is significant in healthcare, particularly for individuals with developmental physical disabilities in Pennsylvania. As a Home and Community-Based Medicaid program, it enables eligible recipients to live independently within their community. Beyond its focus on providing essential services, the OBRA Waiver also offers a unique opportunity for family caregivers to receive compensation for their invaluable efforts, recognizing their role as crucial contributors to the healthcare system.

Overview of OBRA Waiver

The OBRA Waiver, also known as the Home and Community-Based Waiver program, is a crucial component of Medicaid in Pennsylvania. Its primary purpose is to support individuals with developmental physical disabilities, allowing them to live within their communities while maintaining their independence and quality of life. By providing a range of services and support, the program aims to alleviate the need for institutional care and instead promotes a more inclusive and integrated approach to healthcare.

The OBRA Waiver's target population includes Pennsylvania residents aged 18 to 59 with severe developmental physical disabilities that require an Intermediate Care Facility/Other Related Conditions (ICF/ORC) level of care. Additionally, the program caters to individuals with other related conditions (ORCs), such as physical, sensory, or neurological disabilities, which manifested before age 22 and are likely to continue indefinitely.

The overarching goals of the OBRA Waiver encompass several vital objectives. It strives to enhance individuals' overall well-being by providing comprehensive and person-centered services that cater to their unique needs. The waiver aims to foster a sense of belonging and promote social integration by enabling participants to live in their homes and communities. Additionally, the program seeks to empower family caregivers by acknowledging their invaluable contributions and offering financial support for their critical role in caring for their loved ones. Through these endeavors, the OBRA Waiver aims to create a more inclusive and compassionate healthcare system that values and uplifts individuals with disabilities and their dedicated caregivers.


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Eligibility Requirements for the OBRA Waiver

To qualify for the OBRA Waiver program in Pennsylvania, individuals must meet specific criteria to ensure that the services and support are directed towards those with the most significant needs. The eligibility requirements include:

  1. Residency: Applicants must be residents of Pennsylvania to be considered for the OBRA Waiver.
  2. Age: The program is available for individuals aged 18 to 59. Those who turn 60 while already enrolled in the waiver can continue to receive services until they are no longer needed, but new applicants aged 60 and older will be referred to other suitable programs.
  3. Disability Criteria: The OBRA Waiver caters to individuals with severe developmental physical disabilities. To qualify, an individual's disability must result in substantial functional limitations in three or more major life activities, such as self-care, communication, learning, mobility, self-direction, and capacity for independent living.
  4. Intermediate Care Facility/Other Related Conditions (ICF/ORC) Level of Care: Applicants must require an ICF/ORC level of care, indicating a significant need for support and assistance in daily activities.
  5. Financial Requirements: Eligibility for the OBRA Waiver is also subject to financial criteria, which the local County Assistance Office determines. Income and asset limits may apply, and individuals must meet these requirements to be eligible for the program.
  6. Other Related Conditions (ORCs): The program extends its eligibility to individuals with physical, sensory, or neurological disabilities that manifest before age 22 and are likely to continue indefinitely.

Meeting these eligibility requirements is essential for individuals seeking to access the OBRA Waiver and the comprehensive services it offers. The program's focus on addressing the needs of those with severe developmental physical disabilities and its commitment to empowering individuals and their caregivers makes it a vital resource within the Pennsylvania healthcare system.

Services and Supports under the OBRA Waiver

The OBRA Waiver provides a comprehensive array of services and supports designed to cater to the unique needs of individuals with severe developmental physical disabilities. These services are centered around promoting independence, enhancing the quality of life, and facilitating community integration. Some of the critical services and supports available under the OBRA Waiver include:

  1. Adult Daily Living: Assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, and meal preparation.
  2. Employment Skills Development: Support developing vocational skills and preparing for employment opportunities.
  3. Job Coaching (Intensive and Extended Follow-along): Coaching and guidance to excel in the workplace and maintain employment.
  4. Personal Assistance Services: Help with tasks that individuals may find challenging due to their disabilities.
  5. Residential Habilitation Services: Assistance with living independently in a non-institutional setting.
  6. Respite: Temporary relief for family caregivers to prevent burnout and maintain their well-being.
  7. Service Coordination: Case management to ensure seamless access to various services and resources.
  8. Structured Day Habilitation Services: Engaging activities that promote socialization and skill-building.
  9. Behavior Therapy Services: Support managing challenging behaviors and fostering positive coping mechanisms.
  10. Nursing Services: Medical care and monitoring from licensed nurses.
  11. Occupational Therapy Services: Interventions to improve fine motor skills and functional abilities.
  12. Physical Therapy Services: Therapeutic exercises and interventions to enhance mobility and physical functioning.
  13. Speech and Language Therapy Services: Support for communication and language development.
  14. Community Integration: Activities and programs to encourage participation in the community.
  15. Community Transition Services: Assistance during transitions between different living environments.
  16. Counseling Services: Mental health support and counseling.
  17. Home Adaptations: Modifications to homes to enhance accessibility and safety.
  18. Job Finding: Assistance in finding suitable employment opportunities.
  19. Non-Medical Transportation: Transportation to medical appointments and community activities.
  20. Nutritional Consultation: Guidance on maintaining a healthy and balanced diet.
  21. Personal Emergency Response System: Emergency assistance at the push of a button.
  22. Prevocational Services: Pre-employment skill-building and training.
  23. Supported Employment: Support in maintaining employment.
  24. Vehicle Modifications: Adaptations to vehicles for increased accessibility.

By offering this wide range of services and support, the OBRA Waiver aims to empower individuals with disabilities to lead fulfilling lives within their communities while acknowledging the vital role of family caregivers in participants' overall well-being.


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Compensation for Family Caregivers

Under the OBRA Waiver, unpaid family caregivers may have the opportunity to receive compensation for the care they provide to their loved ones. The program offers a self-directed option, also known as participant-directed services, that allows eligible care recipients to have more control over their care and choose who provides it, including family members. Through this self-directed option, participants can hire and pay family caregivers for their assistance, recognizing their crucial role in supporting individuals with severe developmental physical disabilities. This compensation aims to acknowledge and empower family caregivers, who are often underpaid and undervalued and helps ensure that participants receive the care they need from individuals they trust and feel comfortable with.

Learn more about Medicaid participant-directed care >>

A note from Givers

If you are a resident of Pennsylvania and provide care to a family member with a severe developmental physical disability, take a step towards recognizing the value of your role. Fill out this form to determine your eligibility for caregiver compensation.

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