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Katie Beckett Waiver May Help Tennessee Families with High Medical Bills

By: Austin Thompson – MTN Reporter

High medical bills are causing some families in Tennessee

financial headaches even though they have insurance.

However, there is a bill in the state legislature that may

provide some relief, if passed.

In 1981, president Ronald Regan introduced America to

three-year-old Kate Beckett, who was fighting for her life

in a hospital. He advocated for children just like Katie that

they deserve to be cared for at home.

In a White House Briefing, President Ronald Regan

addressed the issue head on.

“By what sense do we have in government that we’ll pay

$6,000 a month to keep someone in a hospital that we

believe would be better off at home,” Regan said.

More than 30 years later, a state representative and a

nonprofit are looking to help families of children with

severe illnesses and disabilities cope with the financial

burden medical bills can bring.

“You have a child who goes to the emergency room and

gets one bill that’s over $1 million you have a tough choice

to make,” said Sarah Sampson, Deputy Director of

Tennessee Disability Collation.

“Some families will move to states that do have a Katie

Beckett program.”

Approximately 3,600 children will benefit from a Katie

Beckett waiver, according to Sampson.

State Representative Sam Whitson is sponsoring the waiver

in the house. While it’s slowly passing through the various

state subcommittees, there are over 40 states that already

offer similar Katie Beckett waivers, except Tennessee.

“What we want to do is to be able to provide those families,

who may make too much money, and they don’t qualify for

Medicaid to be able to receive benefits for their severely

disabled children with complex medical problems,”

Whitson said.

Photo Submitted:  State Representative Sam Whitson stands with Katie Beckett Waiver supporters.
Photo Submitted: State Representative Sam Whitson stands with Katie Beckett Waiver supporters.

The waiver has a price tag of $45 million dollars the state

would have to contribute, however, Whitson does not see

this as an expansion of Medicaid.

“Were not really expanding Medicaid, we’re just making

sure those families don’t go broke or go into bankruptcy or

divorce to qualify for the coverage that’s already there,”

Whitson said.

While there was applause at the TennCare subcommittee’s

meeting last week, it will be up to legislators whether the

price tag is beneficial to Tennesseans.


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