Public Policy

capitol building

The Arc’s network of national, state and local chapters impacts public policy at all levels.  Through our advocacy and grassroots mobilization, The Arc Tennessee works to protect the civil rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families.

The Disability Advocacy Network
Join The Arc Disability Advocacy Network to keep informed of critical issues impacting people with IDD & their families. The Arc network is only as strong as its members. Your voice is critical to ensuring that the needs of people with I/DD and their families are included anytime a law is passed or changed or when programs are designed or redesigned.  To learn more about public policy advocacy and how to help, contact Carrie Hobbs Guiden.

Federal Government & Federal Legislation

Action Alert!
Achieve with Us to Prevent Devastating Cuts to Medicaid (TennCare) Funding

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed the House in early May with a vote of 217-213.  It is now in the hands of the Senate.  Our advocacy must continue.  This legislation proposes a $834 billion cut to Medicaid funding over time.  Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker must hear from their constituents that these cuts cannot be allowed to happen – that they would be devastating to people with I/DD and their families.

In addition, President Trump released his draft budget which includes an additional $613 billion in cuts to the Medicaid program along with cuts to other disability related programs.

The Arc Tennessee needs your help.  We need you to lend your voice to the cause.  We know that everyone is busy.  We know your time is valuable.  There are many things you can do to help that take less than five minutes.  Please see all the options below and please commit to doing as many as you can…

If you have a few hours:

  • Schedule a meeting with Senator Alexander’s staff at the local office closest to you – go on your own, go as a family, or go as a group representing The Arc
  • Schedule a meeting with Senator Corker’s staff at the local office closest to you - go on your own, go as a family, or go as a group representing The Arc
  • Learn more about how to prepare for a visit here:  http://www.thearc.org/document.doc?id=5660
  • Attend a town hall meeting for Senator Alexander or Senator Corker; for a list of meetings, check here:  https://townhallproject.com/

If you have one hour:

  • Write a letter or an email sharing your personal story of how Medicaid (TennCare) has benefitted you and your family and what would happen if the supports went away
  • Share your personal Medicaid (TennCare) story with The Arc here:  http://disabilityadvocacynetwork.org/app/share-your-story?0&engagementId=286214
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper
  • Film a short video where you share your Medicaid (TennCare) story and share it with The Arc TN and/or post on Facebook

If you have thirty (30) minutes (or less):

  • Write a short email to Senator Alexander and Senator Corker that simply asks them to oppose cuts to Medicaid (TennCare) without sharing as detailed a story
  • Send Senator Alexander and Senator Corker a postcard opposing Medicaid (TennCare) cuts
  • Respond to Action Alerts from The Arc TN and The Arc US

If you have five (5) minutes or less:

  • Call Senator Alexander’s DC office and tell whoever answers the phone that you are a constituent (and mention your connection to disability) and that you oppose legislation that cuts Medicaid funding
  • Call Senator Corker’s DC office and tell whoever answers the phone that you are a constituent (and mention your connection to disability) and that you oppose legislation that cuts Medicaid funding
  • Contact their local office and share the same message
  • Join The Arc Disability Action Network at http://disabilityadvocacynetwork.org/app/register?0&m=9899
  • If you use social media, “friend” Senator Alexander and Senator Corker on Facebook – then share posts from The Arc TN, The Arc US and others that provide information on the devastating impact of Medicaid cuts
  • “Like” The Arc Tennessee on Facebook and share our posts
  • “Like” The Arc US on Facebook and share their posts
  • Follow The Arc TN and The Arc US on twitter – “retweet” posts

What you can say:

  • I am a member of The Arc.
  • I am a person with I/DD, or I am a family member of someone with I/DD, or I am a professional in the disability field.
  • Do NOT support the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
  • Do NOT allow cuts to critical Medicaid services to pay for tax cuts.
  • Do NOT allow Medicaid cuts in the federal budget.

These activities are not just “one and done” – please keep contacting them!

Congressional Phone Numbers

Learn about the real-life implications of these proposed cuts to Medicaid and Health Care for people with I/DD below.While Medicaid is best known as a health care program for poor people, more than 80 percent of its budget goes to care for the elderly, the disabled and children, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only 15 percent goes to health care for able-bodied adults. No one seems to know this!

Medicaid (TennCare in Tennessee) is a jointly funded program with matching state and federal funds. Under the current funding structure, TennCare receives $2 in federal funds for every $1 in state funds included in their budget.  Any cuts to the federal portion of Medicaid via per capita caps, block grants or other mechanisms will have a devastating impact on services and supports for Tennesseans with disabilities such as:

  • Losing home and community-based services and supports through the DIDD Medicaid Waivers, through CHOICES or through ECF CHOICES.  Waiting lists would quickly grow, and Tennessee already has a waiting list of nearly 6,000
  • Losing other critical services such as personal care, mental health, prescription drugs, and rehabilitative services. If funds become scarcer, states may decide to stop providing these services altogether.
  • Being forced into unnecessary institutionalization. States could return to the days of “warehousing” people with disabilities in institutions.
  • Shifting the costs to individuals or family members to make up for the federal cuts. The costs of providing health care and long term services and supports will not go away, but will be shifted to individuals, parents, states, and providers. 

For additional information, see CCD’s fact sheet about Medicaid

Additional resources and information are listed below:

ACA: How People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Benefit from the ACA

Article from The Tennessean: TennCare Chief: Obamacare replacement holds 'serious budget implications'

Medicaid: The Outlook in 2017: Cuts, Block Grants or Per Capita Caps?
To read CEO of The Arc, Peter Berns' article on Medicaid Cuts in the Huffington Post, click HERE.

Education:  https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2017/01/18/devos-unfamiliarity-with-civil-rights-law-for-students-with-disabilities-concerns-hassan/eaRGm1bAzUy9PG2RCl5Q8M/story.html

The needs of people with I/DD and their families must be considered when passing or changing any law, or developing or changing any program that could impact their quality of life. People with I/DD have the same rights as every other citizen. To learn more about other public policy issues important to people with I/DD and their families, visit The Arc US website Public Policy and Legal Advocacy page.

Congressional Phone Numbers

State Government & State Legislation

Stay Informed
The Arc Tennessee and Disability Rights Tennessee track bills that may impact people with disabilities.  Weekly updates began January 27, 2017 and are available below.  In addition, The Arc Tennessee hosts a weekly update conference call every Friday morning at 8:30am central time during legislative session beginning every January.  If you would like to be added to the list to receive the weekly updates and to receive conference call information, please contact Carrie Hobbs Guiden.

The Arc TN Legislative Weekly Update:

June 13, 2017 Final [.doc]
June 13, 2017 Final [.pdf]

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) Weekly Policy Watch:

May 12, 2017 [.pdf]

State Budget
The Arc Tennessee is grateful to Governor Haslam for his support of Direct Support Professionals.  The additional $8 million included in his budget will raise the wage upon which DIDD Medicaid Waiver rates are based from $8.73 to $9.11.  This ongoing recognition by Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly of the importance of a living wage for the workers that support Tennessee’s most vulnerable adults is much appreciated.  While there is still much work to do to reach the point of a living wage for Direct Support Professionals, this increase is a step in the right direction.

The Arc Tennessee is also grateful to Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly for including funds for an additional 715 slots for the Employment and Community First (ECF) CHOICES program.  This new program supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to maximize employment and independent living outcomes.

State Legislature
The 2017 session of the One Hundred Tenth General Assembly adjourned May 10, 2017. It will reconvene at 12:00 noon (CST) on Tuesday, January 9, 2018.

To review a list of disability related legislation that passed this session, please read our Public Policy Report.

To read an update on state and federal policy overall this past six months, see The Arc Tennessee PowerPoint presentation 2017 MegaConference Advocacy Matters.

The Arc Tennessee and the DD Network collaborated with the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), Senator Becky Massey and Representative Mike Carter to pass legislation that would formalize the process of Supported Decision Making (SDM) in Tennessee Code.  This legislation (SB264/HB941) will be part of a summer study in the Senate Judiciary and was deferred to the first calendar of the House Civil Justice Sub-Committee in 2018.  As with many pieces of legislation, the concept and scope of the legislation shifted as we sought input from additional stakeholders.  To learn more about Supported Decision Making, refer the resources below:

Other State News
Enrollment for the new ECF CHOICES Program is open for people with intellectual disability (ID) and people with developmental disabilities (DD) other than ID.  To start the process for determining eligibility, simply complete a self-referral form.  There are three (3) ways to accomplish this task:

  1. Complete it online at https://www.tn.gov/tenncare/article/signing-up-for-the-program
  2. If you already have TennCare and Amerigroup or BlueCare is your MCO, call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask for help completing the self-referral form for the ECF CHOICES Waiver.
    1. Amerigroup 866-840-4991
    2. BlueCare 888-747-8955
  3. If you do not have TennCare or United HealthCare is your MCO, contact your DIDD Regional Office and ask for help completing the self-referral form.
    1. West TN Regional Office:  866-372-5709
    2. Middle TN Regional Office:  800-654-4839
    3. East Tennessee Regional Office:  888-531-9876

If you were previously on the DIDD Waiting List for Medicaid Waiver services, you were automatically transferred to the new referral list for the ECF CHOICES Waiver.  However, to be considered for enrollment into the program now, you must complete the self-referral form.

Get Involved

Your involvement in public policy advocacy is key to protecting and furthering the rights of people with I/DD and their families and there are many ways you can make a difference. Below are just a few of your options:

  • Develop relationships with your elected officials both federal and state – meet with them in person, email them, call them and share your personal stories
  • “Friend” your legislators on social media – Facebook, Twitter, etc.  Click HERE to get social media information for Federal legislators
  • “Like” The Arc Tennessee Facebook page and “Share” our posts with your Friends
  • Respond to Action Alerts from The Arc US and The Arc Tennessee
  • Agree to be a “point person” in your county to alert other families to important legislative action that needs their attention
  • Respond to requests for public comment on proposed state plans, policies, rules and regulations – the State does take this feedback seriously
  • Attend public forums, town hall meetings and public hearings
  • Join committees, task forces, advisory committees

To learn more, access our Webinar Series – The Power of Public Policy Advocacy:

Contact Carrie Hobbs Guiden for more information on how to get involved in public policy advocacy with The Arc. 

Kindred Stories is a joint project between Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and The Arc Tennessee that shares individual and family stories on topics of importance.  These collections of stories are shared with state and federal elected officials and others: http://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/vkc/resources/kindred/.

To download the latest issue "Access to Health Care" click HERE.

Share your story here: http://vkc.mc.vanderbilt.edu/kindredstories/

Disability Policy Alliance

The Arc Tennessee participates in the Disability Policy Alliance (DPA), a public policy advocacy collaborative that also includes the Council on Developmental Disabilities, Disability Rights Tennessee and the Statewide Independent Living Council.  To learn more about DPA, visit http://www.fulfillthepromise.org/.