Julie Beckett

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Julie Beckett
Julianne Ethel O'Connell

(1949-11-09)9 November 1949
Died13 May 2022(2022-05-13) (aged 72)
Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S.
OccupationEducator, activist
Mark Beckett
(m. 1978; div. 1990)
ChildrenKatie Beckett

Julianne Ethel Beckett (née O'Connell; November 9, 1949 – May 13, 2022) was an American teacher and disability rights activist. She lobbied for changes to Medicaid that allowed hundreds of thousands of disabled children to be cared for by their families at home.[1][2][3] Her efforts, and those of other activists, led to the legislation and establishment of the Katie Beckett Medicaid waiver, named for her daughter Mary Katherine Beckett (1978–2012), who used a ventilator after surviving viral encephalitis in infancy.[4] The waiver was included as a provision of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982.[5]

Early life and education[edit]

Julianne O'Connell was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, one of the eight children born to John Joseph O'Connell and Barbara Jane Ryan O'Connell. Her family was Roman Catholic; her father was a World War II veteran and a lumber salesman.[6][7] She graduated from Regis High School in 1967, and from Clarke College in Dubuque in 1971; she earned a master's degree in history from the University of Dayton.[8]


Julie and Mark Beckett with their daughter Katie, meeting Ronald Reagan outside Air Force One at the Cedar Rapids airport in 1984

Julie Beckett was a part-time teacher and worked in a record store, before becoming her only child's full-time caregiver.[8] She was also state director of Sick Kids Need Involved People (SKIP), and later co-founder and policy coordinator for Family Voices, a national lobbying organization.[5][9] She testified before Congressional hearings several times.[10] She remained active in Medicaid reform work after the Katie Beckett waiver was established; "my goal is that no child will ever have to go through what my child had to go through," she told a newspaper in 1995.[11] She was honored as a child advocate in 2000,[12] and as a local hero at the Cedar Rapids Freedom Festival in 2005.[13]

Personal life[edit]

Julie O'Connell and Mark Beckett married in 1978; they divorced in 1990. Their daughter Katie was born prematurely in 1978,[8] and died in 2012.[14] Beckett died from a heart attack in May 2022, at the age of 72.[2] "Thanks to Julie's tireless advocacy, millions of Americans, including hundreds of thousands of children with complex medical needs, have been able to receive the care and support they need in their homes rather than in institutional settings", said Daniel Tsai of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency.[15]


  1. ^ Risen, Clay (May 25, 2022). "Julie Beckett, Who Helped Disabled Children Live at Home, Dies at 72". The New York Times.
  2. ^ a b Langer, Emily. "Julie Beckett, Champion of Children with Disabilities, Dies at 72" The Washington Post (May 26, 2022).
  3. ^ "C.R. woman who fought for change in Medicaid system dies". www.thegazette.com.
  4. ^ "Reagan Calls; Tot's Parents Thank Him". Des Moines Tribune. November 13, 1981. p. 6. Retrieved May 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  5. ^ a b Benjamin, Cynthia (July 31, 1984). "Girl Improves Under Home Medical Care". The Columbian. p. 23. Retrieved May 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  6. ^ "Area deaths: John O'Connell, Jr". Quad-City Times. March 2, 2007. p. 20. Retrieved May 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  7. ^ "Barbara O'Connell". Quad-City Times. October 18, 2008. p. 15. Retrieved May 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  8. ^ a b c "Katie's At Home in the Hospital". The Gazette. April 29, 1979. p. 56. Retrieved May 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  9. ^ Myers, E. Michael (July 12, 2002). "Kids' Health Care Bill in Senate; Medicaid Waiver Helped Family Pay for Treatment". The Gazette. p. 15. Retrieved May 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ Committee on Energy and Commerce (January 16, 2008). Helping Families with Needed Care: Medicaid's Critical Role. Government Publishing Office. pp. 125–131 – via Internet Archive.
  11. ^ Lynch, David (March 26, 1995). "C. R's Beckett Worries Reform May Hurt Children". The Gazette. p. 19. Retrieved May 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ "Child Advocate Awards Go to 3; Agency Honors Cedar Rapidians". The Gazette. October 8, 2000. p. 24. Retrieved May 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  13. ^ Perry, J. K. (June 11, 2005). "Freedom Fest Honors Local Heroes". The Gazette. p. 1. Retrieved May 30, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ Gravelle, Steve (May 18, 2012). "Cedar Rapids woman who changed Medicaid dies". The Gazette. Retrieved May 30, 2022.
  15. ^ "Remembering Julie Beckett". ACL Administration for Community Living. May 18, 2022. Retrieved May 30, 2022.

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