It may be many months before 3,000 more Tennessee children with severe disabilities get state-funded health coverage. The program, known as the Katie Beckett waiver, allows middle- and upper-income families to qualify for TennCare.
The law, HB 498, was one of the few examples this year of new spending applauded by both Republicans and Democrats, though it resulted in some late-session back-and-forth over how much funding to allocate. But it led to a celebration at the State Capitol last week.
"It's relief," says Rondi Kauffmann of Dickson County, who attended the signing ceremony after lobbying the legislature. She has a toddler who needs round-the-clock nursing that private insurance doesn't pay for.
"It's relief in a lot of ways because there's help that is coming for a lot of these families. I'm really grateful."
But the state law is just the start. It instructs the state's Medicaid program to get permission from the federal government to extend coverage. That's pretty much certain, since almost every other state has a similar program, but the process will take time.
There are other details to hash out afterward (explained in detail by TennCare). Some children obviously qualify, but that's only about 300 slots. There is a second tier of conditions where the family can get $10,000 of assistance each year to offset the cost of caring for this child's disability at home.
At the earliest, it will be 2020 before families can begin to apply.