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 COVID019, 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.

One of TDC’s top policy priorities this year is HB1062/SB1349, which modernizes the definition of “Intellectual Disability” in the state’s criminal code and provides a pathway for individuals on death row to be evaluated for ID under this modern definition. This bill is necessary and urgently needed, and it needs your support.

The state of Tennessee last updated the definition of ID in the criminal code in 1990. The 1990 statute relies on outdated and invalid medical and legal criteria that define ID based exclusively on an IQ score. Since that time, our understanding of ID has evolved to include a person’s functional capacity, rather than simply flawed IQ testing. The United States Supreme Court concurs, multiple times over. They have repeatedly ruled that it is unconstitutional to use an IQ score exclusively to determine ID in criminal cases.

The state of Tennessee banned the practice of executing individuals with ID years ago but has never updated its criminal code to reflect the rule. Thus, anybody sentenced to death before the Tennessee law was passed cannot appeal to the state’s laws, because our laws still say that ID = IQ.

HB1062/SB1349, sponsored by Senator Todd Gardenhire and Representative David Hawk, would help rectify this legal contradiction. The bill is to be heard before the Senate Judiciary and House Civil Justice Subcommittee this week. It needs the full support of Tennesseans who believe we should not unconstitutionally execute people with intellectual disabilities.


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

     Support the bill by using THIS LINK to email committee members and tell them to pass HB1062/SB1349.


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 counties to begin vaccinating residents based on their vaccine supply and demand. Many counties are at phase 3, which encompasses individuals with underlying conditions, people with disabilities (including their caregivers) and those in congregate communities. As of April 5th, all Tennesseans age 16 and up will be eligible to receive the vaccine.


Orange box with check markWhat you can do RIGHT NOW:

You can search for vaccine appointments using THIS LINK