Katie Beckett healthcare program reports successful enrollment

    An initiative to bridge the gap in Medicaid for parents with disabled children is already showing success after opening for applications in November. 

    On Monday, the Division of TennCare and the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) announced that more than 290 children have been enrolled in the Katie Beckett Program with nearly 900 applications filed. 

    The Katie Beckett Program provides health care for children with disabilities or complex medical needs who are not eligible for Medicaid due to their parents’ income. 

    Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
    Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

    “What we found out was that parents were separating, divorcing or quitting their jobs so that they could qualify for Medicaid for their children’s disabilities, so we lifted the income gap so these children could get services, regardless,” said Rep. Sam Whitson, R-Franklin and sponsor for the legislation behind the program. 

    “A family making $200,000 a year cannot afford $100,000 years-worth of services for their disabled child,” he added.

    The program draws its name from an Iowa child who became disabled after becoming ill with viral encephalitis, a brain infection at 5 months old. Despite her parent’s middle class income, the family’s life savings and a million dollars in health insurance was soon exhausted because of Beckett’s numerous health issues. When then-President Ronald Reagan learned about the family’s issues, he created the Katie Beckett Waiver.

    “He actually met the little girl and found out that the family just could not cover the cost of this and they had to quit their jobs to qualify for care. He just thought that was poor policy,” said Whitson.

    The program comes in two parts: Part A provides Medicaid services to children with significant or complicated disabilities and part B is a Medicaid diversion program, which allows children not enrolled in Medicaid to receive a capped package of support up to $10,000 a year to cover the cost of private insurance. The monetary support also includes care not covered under the family’s insurance. 

    The Katie Beckett Waiver was passed by the General Assembly and signed into law May 2019. Before becoming law in Tennessee, the Katie Waiver Program and similar programs were available in other states, including Georgia and Arkansas. 

    “We’ve seen great success with this initial program launch,” said TennCare director Stephen Smith in a press release. “We will build on this success to ensure as many families as possible can receive the tremendous support and assistance that the Katie Beckett program is designed to provide.”

    Families who are interested in applying can fill out a form on the TennCare Connect website.