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 (IDD) 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 IDD 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

Current News

On December 22, 2017 the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law. While many of the provisions most harmful to people with disabilities were removed from the bill, concerns remain. The bill significantly adds to the federal deficit over time and whenever the federal deficit grows, programs that people with I/DD and their families depend upon such as Medicaid and SSI become targets for cuts. We must remain vigilant in reminding our elected officials of the importance of these programs as well as Medicare and SSDI. To learn more about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, please click this link: Politifact Tax Bill Truth

On January 11, 2018 CMS issued guidance to states around “community engagement requirements” for able-bodied adults receiving Medicaid. To learn more about the CMS guidance, please click these links:
Medicaid and Work Requirements Guidance
CMS Policy Guidance

For more federal updates via email, sign up for the The Arc Capitol Insider listserv by clicking HERE. To read the Capitol Insider Blog click HERE.

Ongoing Medicaid (TennCare) Advocacy
Many leaders in Washington, DC are committed to dismantling the Medicaid program as we know it and we must keep sending them the continuous message to protect it. Medicaid (TennCare) not only provides health care for people with I/DD, it also provides critical long-term services and supports (LTSS) that allow people with I/DD to live healthy, safe and fully inclusive lives in their communities. Below are some facts about the Medicaid program in Tennessee and what you can do to help continue educating our electing officials about this critical program.

Medicaid (TennCare) Facts
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, people with disabilities, and children, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Only 15% goes to health care for “able-bodied” adults.

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.

What You Can Do

If you have a few hours:

  • Schedule a meeting with the staff of Senator Alexander, Senator Corker and your Congressman 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:
  • Attend a town hall meeting for Senator Alexander or Senator Corker; for a list of meetings, check here:

If you have one hour:

  • Write a letter or an email to Senators Alexander and Corker and your Congressman 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:
  • 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 Senators Alexander and Corker and our Congressman that simply asks them to oppose any cuts to Medicaid through legislation or the budget without sharing your personal story
  • Respond to Action Alerts from The Arc TN and The Arc US

If you have five (5) minutes or less:

  • Call the DC offices of Senators Alexander and Corker and tell whoever answers the phone that you are a constituent (and mention your connection to disability) and that you oppose any action that cuts Medicaid funding
  • Contact their local offices and share the same message
  • Join The Arc Disability Action Network at
  • If you use social media, “friend” Senators Alexander and 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

The Message

  • I am a member of The Arc.
  • I am a person with IDD, or I am a family member of someone with IDD, or I am a professional in the disability field.
  • Please oppose any action that cuts Medicaid (TennCare), including block grants and/or per capita caps
  • Supports for people with I/DD through Medicaid (TennCare) is not a partisan issue
  • Any consideration for changes to the Medicaid program should be thoroughly analyzed
  • Congress should continue finding innovative solutions to expand access to HCBS such as through reauthorizing the Money-Follows-the-Person (MFP) demonstration

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

Congressional Phone Numbers

The needs of people with IDD 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 IDD have the same rights as every other citizen. To learn more about other public policy issues important to people with IDD and their families, visit The Arc US website Public Policy and Legal Advocacy page.

State Government & State Legislation

Current News
The Tennessee General Assembly is now housed in the Cordell Hull building.

Stay Informed
The Arc Tennessee and Disability Rights Tennessee track bills that may impact people with disabilities.  Weekly updates typically begin a couple weeks into session and are available below. In addition, The Arc Tennessee hosts a weekly update conference call every Friday morning at 8:30 am (Central Time) during legislative session.  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:
April 27, 2018 [.doc]
April 27, 2018 [.pdf]

Disability Rights Tennessee (DRT) Weekly Policy Watch:
April 27, 2018 [.pdf]

The Council on Developmental Disabilities publishes a weekly policy update through a listserv. To sign up for these emails click HERE.

State Legislature
The 2018 session of the One Hundred Tenth General Assembly began January 9, 2018. The Arc Tennessee will be working to pass two key pieces of legislation this session.

SB 264/ HB941 – The Supported Decision-Making Act
The Arc Tennessee continues to work with key stakeholders and bill sponsors Senator Becky Massey and Representative Mike Carter to pass legislation that will formally recognize supported decision-making as an alternative to conservatorships for individuals with disabilities that require assistance making decisions but do not need a conservatorship.  It passed the Senate and House Civil Justice Sub-Committee on 2/28/18.  To review the most recent amendment to the legislation, talking points, and other information related to supported decision-making, click the links below:

SB 1494/ HB 1542 Aging Caregiver-Expanded
In 2016, legislation was passed that was commonly referred to as the “Aging Caregiver” bill.  This bill established in Tennessee Code that any eligible individual on the waiting list for the DIDD Medicaid Waivers with a primary caregiver age 75 and older would automatically be provided the option to enroll in the Self-Determination Waiver.  Since the time this legislation passed, the DIDD Medicaid Waivers have officially closed to new enrollment.  People are now referred to the TennCare Employment and Community First CHOICES program and eligibility has been expanded to include people with developmental disabilities other than intellectual disability.  The purpose of this legislation is to expand the law to include everyone eligible for Group 5 in the EFC CHOICES program with primary caregivers age 75 and older.  This legislation will have a fiscal note attached. Senator Ferrell Haile and Representative Bob Ramsey are sponsors of this bill.  To view the bill and the talking points, click the links below:

DSP Wages
The shortage of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to work with individuals with I/DD is at critical levels across much of the United States.  Quality DSPs are the foundation upon which a successful system of services and supports for people with I/DD is built. Tennessee’s DSPs have some of the lowest hourly wages in the country.  The average DSP in Tennessee makes less than $10 an hour.  Fast food chains are advertising starting wages of $12.00 an hour.  The Arc Tennessee supports efforts to move toward a living wage for all DSPs.   To learn more about the DSP crisis, read the most recent Comptroller's Report.

Get Involved
Your involvement in public policy advocacy is key to protecting and furthering the rights of people with IDD 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
  • TN General Assembly Map

Your Voice Matters!
Are you interested in learning more about public policy advocacy but not sure where to start?  Take advantage of our free Public Policy Webinar Series! Below are links to part webinars and the upcoming webinar topics and dates. All are Central Time.  To register for any or all, click HERE and complete the form.

  • Overview of the Legislative Process [streaming link]
  • Overview of the Legislative Process [download recording link]
  • Overview of the Legislative Process [PowerPoint]
  • February 1 – 11am-12pm – Navigating the TN General Assembly website/Disability Day on the Hill Update
  • February 22 – 12-1pm – Developing relationships with your elected officials
  • March 8 11am-12pm- Federal policy and its relationship to state funding and policy
  • March 29 11am-12pm – The Tennessee Gubernatorial and congressional races – what’s at stake
  • April 12 11am-12pm – TBA

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 that are shared with state and federal elected officials can be read HERE. To download the latest issue "Rural Issues" click HERE.

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.