The state helps 10,000th person get care at home instead of staying in a nursing facility.

After 10 months in a nursing home recovering from hip surgery and cancer treatments, 58-year-old Teri Eldridge knew if she didn't get back to her home in Columbus, she'd waste away.

The oncologist treating her multiple myeloma recommended a bone marrow transplant but told her, "You have to go home and get stronger. You can't do it here; too many germs. You need to control your environment."

Eldridge, a divorced mother of two and former home-health aide, agreed.

So she stayed in bed most days, reluctant to leave her room because her weakened immune system left her more susceptible to illness.

"I didn't know what I was going to do or who was going to help care for me, but I knew I had to go home. I knew I could get better sitting on my swing or out back, I could go places and do a lot more at home," Eldridge said.

Ohio's Home Choice program made that possible. It arranged for the move back to her apartment and daily visits from a health aide to help Eldridge bathe, dress and clean her house, as well as weekly visits from a nurse and physical therapist — all paid by Medicaid.

Established in 2008, Home Choice has hit a new threshold: Transitioning 10,000 poor elderly, disabled and mentally ill Ohioans who qualify for Medicaid from an institutional setting into a home. Originally, the goal was to help 2,000.

The arrangement makes Eldridge happy and saves the tax-funded health-care program more than half of what it would cost if she were still in a nursing home. Better yet, her health has improved and she's scheduled to get her bone-marrow transplant in early September.

"The program provides greater choice and control for people over the services they receive — and in the setting they prefer," said Ohio Medicaid Director Barbara Sears.

From 2 months to 101

Ohio, state officials say, is second only to Texas in moving individuals from institutions to home and community-based settings. The youngest person transitioned was 2 months, the oldest was 101.

An analysis by the Department of Medicaid of 1,283 Home Choice participants in 2016 showed the average annual cost of their care was $32,533. That compared to $71,640 for their institutional care costs before moving home.

With Ohio's aging population and increasing demand for long-term care services, greater utilization of home and community-based services has stretched Medicaid dollars.

Ohio now serves 60 percent of those receiving Medicaid long-term care through home and community services and 40 percent in institutional care. A decade ago it was the opposite.

Nationwide, Ohio is among 22 states that spend more than half of their long-term care budgets on home and community care, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The financial benefit is clear.

But congressional Republican efforts to cut federal funding for Medicaid to states, some fear, could force them to scale back the program.

Home and community-based services are optional under federal Medicaid guidelines while nursing-home care is a required benefit. If funds are limited, states would have no choice but to cut optional services first.

Eldridge doesn't see much sense in those rules.

At home, she takes short walks, does puzzles, colors and watches old John Wayne westerns to keep busy and build her strength. Her son and daughter visit frequently, help with errands and accompany her to doctor appointments.

"I've gotten stronger and move around better," she said. "Without (Home Choice) I wouldn't be getting my bone marrow transplant."