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

The new administration has wasted no time working towards a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The new federal bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) includes significant cuts to the Medicaid program by means of per capita caps.  To learn more about per capita caps and block grants, click HERE.  Not only would these Medicaid cuts impact basic healthcare provided to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), they will also impact long term services and supports (LTSS) through the DIDD Waivers, the ECF CHOICES program and the CHOICES program. 

We need your help to take action now!  Remember every call matters! What to do:

  • Call your Senators and Congressmen  
    • Don’t let them take away health care and services for millions of people and replace it with a plan that CUTS Medicaid.
  • Call Governor Haslam today!  You can reach him at 615-741-2001
    • Remind Governor Haslam what cuts to Medicaid (TennCare)  would mean for the state budget and why they matter to you.
    • Share that same message with your state legislator.  To find your legislator go to http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/Apps/fml/districts.aspx

What to Say:

  • I am your constituent.
  • I am a person with a disability or I am a family member of someone with a disability or I am a professional in the disability field.
  • Do NOT allow restructuring and cuts to Medicaid to be part of an Affordable Care Act (ACA) replacement.
  • Medicaid (TennCare) helps me/my family member to have health care and community based services such as employment supports, personal assistance and respite.

Message: Do NOT cut and cap Medicaid! 

Medicaid (TennCare in Tennessee) is a jointly funded program with matching state and federal funds. Under a Medicaid per capita cap, the federal government would set a limit on how much to reimburse states based on enrollment in the Medicaid (TennCare) program. Unlike current law, funding would not be based on the actual cost of providing services. Much like the proposed block grants, the intent of the per capita caps is to restructure the program and save the federal government money. Inevitably there will be cuts in funding in Tennessee.  The negative impacts to Medicaid (TennCare) recipients could include:

  • 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 are listed below:

January 20, 2017 ushers in a new President and a new Administration. Many early proposals put forth by the new Administration could have negative consequences for people with I/DD and their families. The Arc is concerned that thousands of people with I/DD could lose critical health care benefits if the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is repealed without a suitable replacement; that converting the Medicaid (TennCare in Tennessee) program to block grant funding or per capita caps could result in significant cuts to health care and long term services and supports that people with I/DD depend upon for optimal quality of life; and that the civils rights of people with I/DD protected under laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) could get chipped away. To learn more about these issues, click the links 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

The 110th General Assembly is in session.

To keep up with the activities of the Tennessee General Assembly, visit http://www.capitol.tn.gov/. To find your legislators, visit http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/Apps/fml/districts.aspx.

The Reliable Coverage Act HB960/SB991 will prevent non-medical switching of prescription drugs by insurance plans during a plan year.  Passage of this law would mean that the covered drug formulary that an insurance plan offers at the beginning of a plan year must remain in effect the entire plan year.  For many people who take medication to manage chronic conditions such as epilepsy, mental health diagnoses, diabetes, etc., this means more consistency for managing your health conditions. Below is information on this legislation:

The Arc TN Legislative Weekly Update on Bills Tracked:

March 2, 2017 [.doc]
March 2, 2017 [.pdf]

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) Weekly Policy Watch:

March 17, 2017 [.pdf]

Stay Informed

The Arc Tennessee and Disability Rights Tennessee track bills that may impact people with disabilities.  Weekly updates will begin 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 January 27, 2017.  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.

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.  To read these stories, visit 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/.