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June 30, 2020Advocacy Matters

Update on Medical Rationing Across the U.S.

Disability Matters with Joyce Bender

June 30, 2020

#AdvocacyMatters Segment

Update on Medical Rationing Across the U.S.


As COVID-19 cases increase in parts of the mid-west, the south, and the southwest, the disability legal community continues our efforts to ensure state policies prohibit discrimination based on disability.

States like Alabama, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut have already filed and resolved our civil rights complaints to ensure our state policies ban disability discrimination in medical rationing plans.

Now the numbers clearly show that the pandemic has hit other parts of our country hard.  ICU and hospital beds are near or at capacity in those states and Governors and health officials are contemplating policies and decisions on who should be excluded from care due to lack of beds, ventilators, or other resources.

On Friday, June 26, 2020, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee agreed to update his state’s crisis medical standards of care to ban discrimination against people with disabilities or by age.

Tennessee now becomes the fourth state to resolve a medical rationing civil rights complaint.  The complaint was filed by Disability Rights Tennessee, The Arc, the Center for Public Representation, the Bazelon Center, and more.  The complaint was resolved with the help of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights.

The Tennessee resolution is important because it goes further than other states have gone.  There are no exclusions based on disability, need of resources, or length of need of those resources.  There is no consideration of long-term survivability.  The medical facility can only consider imminent mortality when allocating care.  Tennessee will prohibit the reallocation of personal ventilators and there will be reasonable modifications to no-visitor policies in hospitals and long-term care facilities and assessment tools.


What should you do if confronted with a medical rationing situation in your state?

Call your state Protection and Advocacy agency.  There is one in every state and territory.  You can find your state agency at

You could file a complaint directly with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights.

COVID-19 is a serious virus.  Proper diagnosis along with access to treatment and care is one key to recovery.  Call someone to help with your right to access health care.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Announcement of Resolution of Tennessee Complaint

Community Press Release on Resolution to Tennessee Complaint


State of Tennessee Guidance


Link to find your state Protection and Advocacy agency.


Link to file HHS Civil Rights Complaint