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Tennessee gets a ‘D’ for support of disabled persons



NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – Disabled persons in Tennessee say the state is failing them.

The Tennessee Disability Coalition’s annual scorecard gave the state a D for the support offered to persons with disabilities living in the state. Among the top concerns, caregiving support.


Robby Barbieiri is paraplegic after a serious car accident in February 2022 injured his spine.

The Tennessee Disability Coalition’s annual scorecard gave the state a D for the support offered to persons with disabilities living in the state. Among the top concerns, caregiving support.


Robby Barbieiri is paraplegic after a serious car accident in February 2022 injured his spine.

“I basically relied on other people for just about everything. At first it was very, very hard,” said Barbieri.


Barbieri said people with his condition can have anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 in caregiving costs each year. Many rely on TennCare to help pay the medical bills. However, there are also income caps to be eligible for TennCare. Barbieri, who used to be a healthcare finance executive, said that puts limits on his future.

“I realized TennCare is forcing people like me to remain unemployed and sacrifice family in order to maintain eligibility,” said Barbieri.

The Tennessee Disability Coalition said Tennessee is just one of a few states that don’t allow people to pay to have state provided insurance like TennCare.

“So the option is either impoverish yourself and take a job that is maybe less than everything you worked for in your life, or lose your health care, and that is a terrible position,” said Jeff Strand, the Coordinator for Government and External Affairs for the Tennessee Disability Coalition.

Tennessee House Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Old Hickory, plans to introduce a bill in the next legislative session that would help working individuals with disabilities be able to get TennCare coverage. Barbieri hopes sharing his story will encourage lawmakers to pass the policy change in 2024.

“I want to go back and get another degree. I want to be able to pay taxes, I want to be able to contribute to society,” said Barbieri.

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