This semester, I was enrolled in a Reporting Public Affairs course, where we talked about how to cover things such as stories based on police reports and court proceedings.

Right before spring break, my professor told the class that we were going to do individual stories based on a central idea. The central idea was going to be based around low income situations, and I had no idea what to do.

Then I heard about the Katie Beckett Waiver, and how parents from across the state are fighting to get it pushed through the state legislature. The Katie Beckett Waiver is this: It allows for a medically fragile child to qualify for TennCare, even if their parents make too much money to qualify. By qualifying for TennCare, these children can receive access to medical equiptment they need, as well as therapies that can help improve their lives.

I understood what that meant in theory, but it wasn’t until I went to a gathering supporting the Katie Beckett Waiver that I understood just how this would improve the families’ lives.

I listened to parents talk about how they have to choose between paying for medical equiptment or therapies. I listened to one couple talk about how they were told if they wanted their son to qualify for TennCare, they would either have to quit their jobs, divorce or just move out of Tennessee all together. One of the older siblings of a child with disabilities told me that her family was on TennCare, but to stay on it, her mother could only work one night a week so that way they could stay below the poverty line.

I find that to be unacceptable. I grew up with a sibling who has special needs, and spent a lot of my childhood going to events like ‘all-inclusive baseball games’, where I was surrounded by kids with all sorts of medical needs. I’ve seen firsthand how challenging it is to take care of a child with disabilities.

 I am frustrated by the fact that Tennessee is the only state in the country that has not adopted some form of the Katie Beckett Waiver, leaving these parents to struggle to figure out how they are going to care for their child.

Yes, I realize that there are other families in the state who have to go without adequate health care. There are many things that need to be fixed in the health care system.

By passing the Katie Beckett Waiver, this is a step in the right direction. This will allow families with children who have disabilities to be able to afford life changing, and lifesaving, equiptment and therapies for their child. It will help make the day to day lives of these children a little bit easier.

Forty-nine out of 50 states have passed the Katie Beckett Waiver. Tennessee, it’s time to become number 50.