Monday, October 8, 2012

Side by Side: A Look at the Issues by The Arc

Founded in 1950, when few programs were available for people with intellectual disabilities, The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Arc is legally prohibited from taking positions in support of or in opposition to any candidate for public office. But the organization has created one of the best analyses of the Democratic and Republican Party platforms on its priority issues.

Download the document here.

I encourage you to review this entire eight-page document for yourself, but here are a few of my observations.

1. Education
President Obama has expressed his support for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and has stated that it would be more effective if fully funded.

The Republican platform supports the IDEA's "goal of minimizing the separation of children with disabilities from their peers," but it does not support the program itself. In addition, I can tell you firsthand that the next sentence reveals a big disconnect from the reality of people with disabilities: "We urge preventive efforts in early childhood, especially assistance in gaining pre-reading skills, to help many students move beyond the need for IDEA’s protections." Yes, families should have access to early intervention (but Romney-Paul aren't offering additional funding for that) -- but even the best programs will not eliminate the needs for long-term support.

The Republican platform says most IDEA money should be provided to families in the form of vouchers. Read my recent post on this topic.

2. Civil Rights
No candidate is going to come out against civil rights. There are really no clear differences between the platforms, except the Republican platform specifically asserts "the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed."

3. Medicaid

The Republican platform encourages an overhaul of the Medicaid program, saying "It is simply too big and too flawed to be managed in its current condition from Washington." It encourages shifting power to the states: "For the aged and disabled under Medicaid, for whom monthly costs can be extremely high, states would have flexibility to improve the quality of care." What's not stated is that they would also have the flexibility to not improve the quality of care, and the option to reduce care.

The Democratic platform: "The President and the Democratic Party will fiercely oppose the harsh cuts in Medicaid that would inevitably lead to no or significantly less health care for millions of Americans with disabilities, workers with disabilities, and families raising children with autism, Down Syndrome, and other serious disabilities."

Read The Arc's position on Medicaid cuts.

4. Medicare
The Republican platform calls for an overhaul of Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid, with a focus on personal responsibility and free market competition.

The Democratic platform: "Nearly 50 million older Americans and Americans with disabilities rely on Medicare each year, and the new health care law makes Medicare stronger by adding new benefits, fighting fraud, and improving care for patients. And, over 10 years, the law will save the average Medicare beneficiary $4,200."
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