With President Obama’s second term coming to an end and eager candidates vetting for his spot, it’s time to start thinking about who to vote for. With the rate of autism growing each year, a factor on top of all of our minds is, if elected, what will our next President do to support the autism community?
To help you weigh the odds, we’ve outlined where each candidate stands on the autism epidemic and what he or she plans to do, if elected.
Hillary Clinton has proposed a new autism initiative that would direct spending on screening and research, as well as require private insurers to cover services related to the disorder.
The plan follows her rollout of a $2-billion annual program last month to address Alzheimer’s disease. The campaign has not released a total cost for autism initiative, but an aide said it would be paid for as a package with her other plans.
Some of the major elements of the plan include:
- Working through Medicaid and Obamacare exchange plans to increase autism screenings at 18 and 24 months
- Pushing states to require Obamacare plans to cover autism services, including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and services that teach skills for daily living to autistic children and adults; and having the Department of Health and Human Services aggressively monitor states to make sure their Medicaid plans are paying for these services too
- Passing the Keeping All Students Safe Act, which would ban mechanical and chemical restraints, as well as physical restraints that restrict breathing; only allow seclusion or restraint when there’s an imminent risk of a student causing physical injury to herself or others; and otherwise limits coercive practices that are often used against younger individuals with autism
- Requiring a post-graduation transition plan for every student with an autism diagnosis aging out of school services, and setting up a public-private partnership with hundreds of employers to give autistic young adults job opportunities
- Funding pilot programs to expand employment for adults with autism, funding community housing with support services for youth and adults on the spectrum, and working with states to expand funding for caregivers
- Conducting the first study of the incidence of autism among adults
The major throughline in each element of the agenda is a desire to help autistic individuals: to make schools and workplaces more accessible for and understanding of them, to prevent them from being mistreated, to fund housing, caregiving, and other services they need.
Read the plan here.
Sanders hasn’t released a plan for autism yet, but here’s an overview of history as it relates to people with disabilities.
Sanders has served as a member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and the Senate Committee on Budget which address disability issues.
Sanders co-sponsored the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), which discarded several of the damaging rulings the courts have issued concerning the ADA and served to “[narrow] the broad scope of protection intended to be afforded by the ADA.” Specifically, the ADAAA served to reject the reasoning used in two Supreme Court cases and to broaden the definition of disability to adhere to the ADA’s goal of providing “a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination.”
Sanders sponsored the 2008 budget increase amendment which called for a $10 billion increase for special education. Currently, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) helps about 6.5 million children with disabilities. Had his amendment been passed, it would have directed more funding towards IDEA and other education programs. In a press release, Bernie stated:
Sanders co-sponsored the Expand TRICARE Coverage of Autism amendment, which expanded the program’s coverage to include autism spectrum disorders and appropriated an additional $45 million for the insurance coverage of autism therapy. He also co-sponsored the Assistive Technology Act of 2004, supporting grants to programs intended to address assistive technology needs of individuals with disabilities.
Marco Rubio served in the Florida legislature in 2008 leading a Select Committee on Autism And Developmental Disorders As a result, several state officials and academics testified about the state of the autism community in Florida. In Washington, Senator Rubio co-sponsored the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011, which was signed into law by President Obama.
During Bush’s tenure as Florida governor, the budget for federal waiver programs for Floridians with disabilities rose from $260 million in 1999-2000 to $861 million for 2006-07, according to records from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. (Those figures include federal matching dollars and state tobacco settlement money.) Spending on institutions declined, while spending on community care soared.
Bush didn’t mention in his speech that multiple lawsuits against the state were also a factor.
During his first year in office, Bush’s proposal for a massive cash injection came amid lawsuits filed by residents with disabilities who lacked services. Many were filed before Bush took office. In one case, a federal judge threatened to seize Florida’s Medicaid money if it didn’t care for the thousands on the waiting list.
Some of the experts we spoke with said multiple lawsuits forced Bush to invest more money to serve more disabled Floridians, and the system was still left with many problems.
Other advocates for people with disabilities — including Democrats — speak highly of Bush for meeting with families that often lack a political voice and for getting more money for community services. Bush inherited a troubled system with long waiting lists, which occurred before and after he was governor.
Marcia Beach is an attorney who sued the state on behalf of people with disabilities, as well as a former Democratic Broward county commissioner. She said that overall, Bush’s record on this topic can fairly be called conservative as well.
Though Trump has not released an official plan yet, he has spoken out about parental concerns regarding vaccinations and the alarming growing rate of autism.
At a recent GOP debate, Trump stated:
“Autism has become an epidemic. Twenty-five years ago, 35 years ago, you look at the statistics, not even close. It has gotten totally out of control,” Trump said. “I am totally in favor of vaccines. But I want smaller doses over a longer period of time. Same exact amount, but you take this little beautiful baby, and you pump—I mean, it looks just like it’s meant for a horse, not for a child, and we’ve had so many instances, people that work for me.”
Though Trump has yet to release a plan of action regarding autism or his concerns with the current vaccine schedule, he has often suggested that parents spread out the number of vaccinations their children receive over a longer period of time.
Carson, like Trump, also has yet to offer a plan of action, but has spoken out on the autism/vaccine debate. Carson disagrees with Trump’s position that there is a link between autism and vaccines, claiming, “There have been numerous studies and they have not demonstrated that there is any correlation between vaccinations and autism.”
However, Carson does believe that the current schedule is “too many too soon,” to which he believes to be “pushed by big government.”
While most candidates have taken a position on special needs, Clinton is the only candidate to propose a plan, while Trump is the only candidate to take a stand for parental concerns regarding vaccinations. What are you thoughts?
What factors are you considering when determining who to vote for? Sound off in the comment below or tweet us @GenRescue using hashtag #ChatAutism
The 2016 Presidential Election will take place Tuesday, November 8, 2016.