Four Things You Need to Know Right Now

4 Things You

Need to Know Right Now

1. Know Your Health Care Rights in the time of COVID-19

No one can deny emergency healthcare just because of a disability. We developed a one-page document affirming these rights, including your right to bring a family member or other helper with you and to get the type of communication you need including an ASL interpreter or other communication supports.

If you have a problem with a doctor or hospital during COVID-19, call Disability Rights Tennessee at 1-800-342-1660 or go to


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   What you can do RIGHT NOW:

    Print these documents and keep them with you at all times to ensure you can easily find them:  PDF   TEXT


2. Know TDC’s Top Policy Priorities

If you would like more information or to get engaged in our current policy efforts call: 615-383-9442 or email:

You can also text “FURTHER” to 72690 for policy updates and alerts.

As TDC begins to look toward the second year of the legislative session beginning in January 2022, our policy priorities are beginning to come into focus. One of our top priorities for the 2022 General Assembly session is to support family caregivers. Family members have long been the ones to stand up for their family member with a disability and stand in when vital services are unavailable or insufficient. However, family caregiving can take a toll on the caregiver, impacting them emotionally, physically and financially. 

One option for supporting family caregivers, especially in the face of Tennessee's ongoing DSP crisis, is to provide financial compensation for the care that they provide. The state has several options for compensating family caregivers. 

First, the public health emergency that was declared as a result of COVID-19 provides flexibility to states to modify Appendix K in their 1915(c) waivers. Tennessee would simply have to check a box on their modified waiver that permits them to pay family members for the care that they provide. There are many other examples nationwide of more permanent options for paying family caregivers. Some states permit family members to be hired through consumer-directed options in their Medicaid 1915(c) waiver programs. Still others permit provider agencies to hie family members as DSP's for people with disabilities in their household. One state has developed a long-term care trust fund that individuals could use to pay family members to provide services. 

The General Assembly has numerous options to support family caregivers. Tennessee has chosen to use some funds from the state’s American Rescue Plan disbursement to provide up to $3,000 in one-time payments to support family caregivers. This shows that they recognize the issues facing family caregivers and have the motivation to begin to address them. We hope to continue and extend these efforts during the 2022 session of the General Assembly. 


Orange box with check mark     What you can do RIGHT NOW:

    Stay tuned to TDC for our upcoming 2022 policy platform. 


3. Know About the Block Grant & DIDD Integration

In early January, the Trump administration approved Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation Medicaid block grant. Typically, federal Medicaid funding is paid on a per-person basis. So, as the number of people receiving Medicaid services or the cost of insuring them increases, so does the funding from the federal government. States, then, must increase their matching share of the funds as well. The federal matching funds come with many patient protection rules and restrictions that ensure that those receiving Medicaid service receive timely, quality care.

The block grant instead provides a set sum of money to the state to be used for Medicaid services. This “block” of money comes with significantly fewer patient protection rules and restrictions, and very importantly, a highly unusual 10-year waiver approval. Typically, states must submit their Medicaid waivers for review every 3-5 years, which then permits a public comment period for people to voice their opinions to the federal Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS). This means that TennCare may make changes to Medicaid services and Tennesseans won’t have the opportunity to voice their concerns to CMS until 2031.

Part of the block grant change overlaps with the state plan to “integrate” the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) and TennCare. This could lead to numerous changes to services for people receiving DIDD support, including putting individuals into managed care for home- and community-based services, changing what medication is available to individuals and limiting enrollment in TennCare Select. With the block grant approval, these changes may be in place for 10 years before the public can comment to CMS about their efficacy.

The federal public comment period for the DIDD/TennCare integration waiver is happening soon. There are many issues to be had with the integration plan and the block grant.


Orange box with check mark    What you can do RIGHT NOW:

    You can use THIS LINK to make comments about the plan, and we will transmit those comments to CMS on your behalf.


4. Know About COVID-19 Vaccines

The state is allowing all individuals aged 12 and older to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Tennesseans with disabilities, seniors and family members or caregivers are also eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in their home. This in-home vaccine program is available across the state and is offering the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine. For help signing up for an in-home vaccine, please contact the Tennessee Disability Coalition by calling 615-383-9442.


Orange box with check markWhat you can do RIGHT NOW:

You can search for vaccine appointments using THIS LINK