Blue Highways Journey – Episode 50 – Initiative

I want to share with you a story of a remarkable woman I heard about on my travels through America’s bread basket. I never met Julie, but I’ve become a great admirer of her initiative and tenacity.

Julie (O’Connell) Beckett was born in 1949 in Iowa. She married in 1978, and her daughter, Katie, was born that same year. When Katie was just four months old, she contracted viral encephalitis. She became dependent on a ventilator and other medical equipment.

It only took three years for the Beckett’s to use up their one-million-dollar health insurance policy. They tried to get Medicaid coverage but were told that Medicaid wouldn’t cover care provided in a home. The only solution was to have Katie become hospital-bound for the rest of her life. This was not a viable solution for the Beckett’s.

Julie put together a presentation for her Congressman showing how home-care was both cheaper and more appropriate medically. When Vice President, George H.W. Bush, visited Iowa, Julie’s Congressman sold him on her case. Vice President Bush then made the case to President Reagan who instructed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a waiver for Katie. President Reagan then asked a          commission be set up to develop a process for families to get similar waivers. Every state bought into the Medicaid changes.

Using her experience getting changes for Katie’s treatment, Julie began advocating for other common sense medical care. She co-founded a non-profit called Family Voices to advocate for home-based care.

When efforts were made to reduce medical care funding, Julie became a leading advocate to maintain advances that had been made. Katie died in 2012, but Julie continued her efforts. Julie was effective in bringing a human voice and face to health care policy issues. Julie recently passed away, leaving a legacy of millions of people who benefitted from changes made through her advocacy.

Adam Steele concluded his story by adding his own thoughts: “Taking initiative is vital to organizations like ours and our society in general. For Julie, she was driven by the thought of her daughter languishing in a hospital. For others the initiative spark may be more global. But we need more people who challenge the way it’s always been. And we need others who are willing to have an open mind.”

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“There comes a moment in parenting when you discover strength you didn’t know you had – all because your child needs you.”
– Julie Beckett

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