Opening Doors for Home-Based Medical Care

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 the 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 to set up 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/face to health care policy issues. Julie passed away in 2022, leaving a legacy of millions of people who benefitted from changes made through her advocacy.

Hidden heroes are often common folks who become heroes as they fight for rights. Julie, like others, became hidden heroes because they saw an injustice that needed to be corrected.

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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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