Tennessee Waiver To Help Families With Disabled Children Gets Federal Approval

The Center Square [By Vivian Jones]- 

Families of about 3,000 children with disabilities will be eligible for financial assistance from the state, as Tennessee’s Katie Beckett Program received federal approval this week.

Instituted during President Ronald Reagan’s administration, the Katie Beckett waiver allows families of children requiring home-based medical services whose income makes them Medicaid ineligible to apply for financial aid for medical care not covered by private insurance.

Applications for Tennessee’s program will open Nov. 23 on the TennCare Connect website, and nearly 700 families already have indicated interest in applying, according to the state.

“As the father of a child with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I know the struggles and concerns families face every day to make sure their child gets the care they need,” Brad Turner, commissioner of Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), said in a video statement. “I know that this is a day that many families have been waiting on for a long time.”

Tennessee’s Katie Beckett Program has two parts. Part A provides full Medicaid benefits and up to $15,000 a year for home- and community-based services for up to 300 children with significant disabilities or complex medical needs. Part B provides $10,000 in financial support each year for up to 2,700 children, without enrolling in Medicaid.

The Division of TennCare received approval Monday for parts A and B of the Katie Beckett Program, becoming one of the last states to see approval for such a waiver.

Tennessee lawmakers, led by Sen. Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, and Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin, passed legislation in 2019 to request the waiver from the federal government. The request has been under review by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Meanwhile, DIDD and TennCare have established systems and hired and trained case managers in order to launch the program promptly after federal approval.

“This is great news for so many Tennessee families and their advocates,” TennCare Director Stephen Smith said. “Tennessee’s Katie Beckett Program is an innovative approach that will benefit children and families in need throughout our state, and we look forward to getting started.”

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