For those who work with Medicare beneficiaries, Judith Stein is a well-known powerhouse. Since founding the Center for Medicare Advocacy in 1986, she’s led numerous major cases involving Medicare denials.
But in 2013, she achieved a massive accomplishment, leading the team that reached a settlement in Jimmo v. Sebelius, which will allow individuals who need “maintenance” therapy to get needed care.
“For me, Jimmo is the most heartwarming success of my career,” she says. “We’ve fought this in so many different ways. To have the success of that case, and to have the organizations that joined us, has really been a career moment for me and the center.”
Stein’s story began in Long Island, NY, and then Connecticut, as the middle daughter of three girls. “That’s where I got my, ‘Let’s all get along and work things out,’” she says.
Stein says she also was inspired by a close relationship with her grandfather: “He had a sixth-grade education but was very learned and aware.”
The first person in her family to go to college, she was one of 40 women who graduated from Williams College in 1972, the second year that the school allowed women. Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty, as well as the work of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., motivated her.
“I’ve always been idealistic,” she says.
Stein matriculated at Catholic University’s School of Law because of its active law clinic and expertise in poverty law. After she graduated, she began working for legal aid services.
“Being a lawyer was still a newfangled thing for women,” she says. “I was pregnant in court with my first child, and they kind of didn’t know what to do with me. Now the majority of people in legal services are women, but at the time it was certainly not the case. It was a bit of trailblazing.”
At the Center for Medicare Advocacy, where attorney Brad Plebani worked for close to three decades, Stein’s passion was always clear, he says.
“She’s good-hearted and creative,” he says. “She’s committed to making sure senior Medicare beneficiaries get good quality care and have their legal rights to Medicare recognized.”
Stein also was appointed to the federal Commission for Long-Term Care in 2013, where Georgetown University professor and commission member Judy Feder, Ph.D., says she and Stein shared a similar view of “we’re all in it together.”
“She has compassion, passion and perseverance,” Feder says. “She’s extraordinary.”
As she looks to the future, Stein, now 63, says she envisions someday working less. Having had breast cancer in 2006, she says, “You look over your shoulder in a different way.”
An avid reader and artist — she quilts and beads — she also loves spending time with family. Married for 20 years to her second husband, physician Kenneth Dardick, they collectively have nine grandchildren.
“I love being a mother, I love being a professional, I even love being a wife,” she says. “I work very long hours and days, but I am very much a worker in this world. I need to leave the center in good financial and leadership shape.”
Graduates from Williams College
Receives law degree from Catholic University
Begins as co-director of Legal Assistance to Medicare Patients (LAMP)
Founds Center for Medicare Advocacy in Willimantic, CT
Serves as National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys president
Represents Sen. Christopher Dodd as delegate to the White House Conference on Aging
Awarded Connecticut Commission on Aging’s “Age-wise Advocate Award”
Serves on 15-member national Commission on Long-Term Care