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Does Autism Qualify for Medicaid in Tennessee?

While autism itself does not guarantee Medicaid eligibility in Tennessee, many individuals with autism can qualify for TennCare coverage through various programs.

mark elias
Mark Elias
October 31, 2023

Does Autism Qualify for Medicaid in Tennessee?

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex developmental disability that affects an individual's ability to communicate, socialize, and interact with others. As a result, individuals with autism often require various support services and therapies, which can be costly.

In this article, we will explore whether autism qualifies for Medicaid in Tennessee, and what services and programs are available to assist individuals and families affected by autism.

Understanding Tennessee Medicaid

Medicaid is a joint federal and state health insurance program designed to provide medical assistance to low-income individuals and families, including those with disabilities. In Tennessee, the Medicaid program is known as TennCare.

TennCare offers several programs and services targeted at different populations, such as children, pregnant women, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities. To be eligible for TennCare, an individual must meet specific income, residency, and citizenship requirements.

Autism and TennCare Eligibility

Tennesseans diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder may qualify for TennCare under certain conditions. The eligibility criteria for individuals with autism depend on factors like age, income, and the severity of the disability.

Children with Autism

Children under the age of 19 with autism may qualify for TennCare through the following programs:

  • TennCare Medicaid: This program provides healthcare coverage for low-income children and pregnant women. Eligibility is determined based on family income and the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Children with autism may qualify if their family's income is within the set limits.
  • TennCare Standard: Also known as the "Medically Needy" or "Spend-Down" program, TennCare Standard is designed for children who have significant healthcare needs but do not meet the income requirements for TennCare Medicaid. The child's medical expenses are offset against the family's income, potentially making them eligible for coverage.
  • Katie Beckett Program: This program is specifically designed for children with disabilities or complex medical needs, including autism. It provides Medicaid coverage to children who do not qualify for TennCare Medicaid due to their family's income. The family's income is not considered for eligibility, and only the child's income (if any) is taken into account.

Adults with Autism

Adults with autism may qualify for TennCare if they meet the criteria for disability under the Social Security Administration's guidelines and have income within the set limits.

Additionally, they may be eligible for coverage through TennCare's Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver programs, which offer support services for individuals with disabilities to live in their homes or communities rather than institutional settings.

Available Services for Individuals with Autism

TennCare covers a range of services for individuals with autism, including but not limited to:

  • Diagnostic evaluations
  • Behavioral therapies, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
  • Speech, occupational, and physical therapy
  • Mental health services
  • Medication management
  • Support for independent living

It is essential to work with a healthcare provider or case manager to determine the appropriate services for each individual's needs and to navigate the Medicaid system effectively.

Applying for TennCare Programs

To access the various TennCare programs, it is essential to understand and follow the application process. This section will guide you through the steps involved in applying for TennCare Medicaid, TennCare Standard, and the Katie Beckett Program.

Applying for TennCare Medicaid

  • Determine Your Eligibility: Before applying, ensure you meet the eligibility criteria based on income, residency, and citizenship requirements. You can use Tennessee's online screening tool called TennCare Connect to check your eligibility.
  • Complete the Application: Log in to your account and fill out the online application form with accurate information about your family size, income, household expenses, and disability status.
  • Submit Documentation: Provide any necessary documentation requested by TennCare Connect to verify your information.
  • Await Approval: Once submitted, wait for a decision from TennCare regarding your application. You will receive a notification via mail or email.

Applying for TennCare Standard (Medically Needy)

The application process for TennCare Standard is similar to that of TennCare Medicaid:

  • Follow steps 1-4 mentioned under "Applying for TennCare Medicaid."
  • In addition to providing standard documentation, submit proof of medical expenses that can be offset against your family's income.
  • Wait for approval from TennCare; they may request additional information or schedule an interview before making a final decision.

Applying for Katie Beckett Program

The Katie Beckett Program has its own distinct application process:

  • Request an Application Packet: Contact Tennessee's Katie Beckett program at 1-800-659-3014 or email katiebeckett.tenn@tn.gov to request an application packet.
  • Complete the Application: Fill out the application form and gather required documentation, such as medical records, proof of income, and proof of residency.
  • Submit the Application: Mail your completed application and all supporting documents to the address provided in the application packet.
  • Undergo a Medical Evaluation: A TennCare-contracted physician will review your child's medical information and may request additional assessments or documentation.
  • Await Approval: The Katie Beckett team will notify you of their decision via mail.

It is crucial to provide accurate information and complete documentation during the application process for any TennCare program. In case of questions or concerns, reach out to TennCare representatives or seek guidance from a healthcare professional or case manager familiar with Tennessee's Medicaid system.

Additional State-Funded Programs for Individuals with Autism in Tennessee

Besides TennCare, Tennessee offers various state-funded programs and services designed to support individuals with autism and their families. These programs focus on providing resources, education, and assistance to help improve the quality of life for people affected by autism.

Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS)

TEIS is a voluntary program that provides early intervention services for infants and toddlers (birth to age 3) with developmental delays or disabilities, including autism. The program focuses on enhancing the child's development through individualized family support plans. Services offered may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and behavioral interventions. To learn more about TEIS or make a referral, visit the Tennessee Early Intervention System website.

Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD)

DIDD is responsible for administering services and supports to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities like autism throughout the state. They offer various programs that provide community-based support services such as residential options, day programs, employment assistance, personal assistance, respite care, and assistive technology. To access DIDD services for an individual with autism, a professional diagnosis is required along with an application through the DIDD website.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

Vocational Rehabilitation Services is part of the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) that assists individuals with disabilities in preparing for, obtaining, or retaining competitive employment.

For individuals with autism who are eligible for these services based on their vocational needs and goals, they may receive support such as job placement assistance, vocational training opportunities, job coaching or mentoring services. More information can be found on the TDHS Vocational Rehabilitation Services website.

Autism Society of Middle Tennessee (ASMN)

While not a state-funded organization, ASMN is a non-profit group that offers resources, support, and advocacy to individuals with autism and their families in the Middle Tennessee area. They organize various events, workshops, and support groups designed to educate, empower, and connect the autism community. To learn more about ASMN and their services, visit their website.

By exploring these additional programs and resources available in Tennessee, individuals with autism and their families can access a comprehensive network of support services tailored to their unique needs.

Appealing a Denied TennCare Application

If your TennCare application is denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. The appeals process allows you to present additional information or clarify any misunderstandings that may have led to the denial of your application. Follow these steps to initiate an appeal:

  • Review the Denial Notice: Carefully read the denial notice sent by TennCare, which will include the reason for denial and instructions on how to file an appeal.
  • File an Appeal: To start the appeals process, submit a written request within 40 days from the date on your denial notice. Include your name, address, phone number, Social Security number, and a brief explanation of why you disagree with the decision.
  • Submit Additional Documentation: Provide any additional documents or information that supports your case and was not included in your initial application.
  • Mail Your Appeal Request: Send your written appeal request and supporting documentation to:

TennCare Solutions UnitP.O. Box 593Nashville, TN 37202-0593

  • Attend a Hearing: Once your appeal request is received and processed, TennCare will schedule a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). During this hearing, you can present your case and provide evidence supporting your eligibility for coverage.
  • Wait for a Decision: After reviewing all available information and considering both sides' arguments during the hearing, the ALJ will make a final decision regarding your eligibility for TennCare.

It's essential to prepare thoroughly for the appeals process by gathering all relevant documentation and organizing a clear presentation of facts supporting your case. If needed, consider seeking legal assistance or consulting with professionals familiar with Medicaid laws in Tennessee to guide you through this process successfully.

Out-of-Pocket Costs for Individuals with Autism under TennCare Coverage

While TennCare provides comprehensive healthcare coverage for eligible individuals with autism, there may still be some out-of-pocket costs associated with certain services or treatments. Understanding these potential expenses can help families plan and manage their finances more effectively.

  • Copayments: Depending on the specific TennCare program, enrollees may be required to pay a copayment for certain services such as outpatient visits, prescription medications, or hospital stays. Copayment amounts vary based on the service received and the individual's eligibility category. It is essential to review your benefit summary and discuss any copayments with your healthcare provider before receiving services.
  • Deductibles: Some TennCare programs may require enrollees to meet a deductible before coverage begins. A deductible is an amount that the individual must pay out-of-pocket for covered services before TennCare starts covering costs. Deductible amounts can vary depending on the program and eligibility category.
  • Non-Covered Services or Treatments: While TennCare offers a wide range of services for individuals with autism, there might be instances where specific treatments or therapies are not covered under the plan. In such cases, families will need to bear the cost of these non-covered services themselves.
  • Out-of-Network Providers: If you choose to receive care from a provider who is not part of TennCare's network, you may face higher out-of-pocket expenses since many out-of-network services are not covered by the plan.

To minimize out-of-pocket costs, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with your specific TennCare program's benefits and limitations. Ensure that you select in-network providers whenever possible and discuss any potential costs with your healthcare team before receiving treatment or therapy.

Additionally, consider exploring supplementary insurance options or financial assistance programs that can help offset any remaining out-of-pocket expenses related to autism care and support.


What programs are available to help parents get paid for taking care of their autistic child in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, the Family Support Program provides financial assistance to families with a member who has severe disabilities, including autism. This program can help pay for services such as respite care, which allows parents to take a break from caregiving responsibilities.

Additionally, some TennCare waiver programs may offer financial support or reimbursement for certain caregiving services provided by family members.

How do I apply for the Family Support Program?

To apply for the Family Support Program, contact your local Family Support Agency and request an application form. Complete the form and submit it along with any required documentation to the agency. Eligibility is determined based on factors such as disability severity, family income, and availability of funds.

Can I qualify as a paid caregiver under TennCare waiver programs?

Some TennCare waiver programs allow family members to serve as paid caregivers. However, eligibility requirements and service limitations vary depending on the specific waiver program. Consult with your case manager or TennCare representative to determine if you qualify as a paid caregiver under your child's current plan.

Are there other financial assistance options available for parents of children with autism in Tennessee?

Yes, various state-funded programs and non-profit organizations provide financial assistance or support services to families affected by autism. Examples include Tennessee Early Intervention System (TEIS), Vocational Rehabilitation Services, and Autism Society of Middle Tennessee (ASMN).

Explore these resources to find additional support that may help offset out-of-pocket expenses related to caring for your autistic child.

Do I need special training or certification to become a paid caregiver for my autistic child?

Requirements for paid caregivers vary depending on the specific program or funding source. Some programs may require caregivers to complete specialized training or obtain certification in areas such as First Aid, CPR, or behavioral interventions. Consult with your case manager, TennCare representative, or the agency administering the financial assistance program to determine any necessary qualifications.


While autism itself does not guarantee Medicaid eligibility in Tennessee, many individuals with autism can qualify for TennCare coverage through various programs.

By understanding the different eligibility criteria and available services, individuals with autism and their families can access the support they need to improve their quality of life and achieve greater independence.