Where We Are Today
I started this blog in 2008 to advocate for people with disabilities during a presidential campaign that I knew would have a major impact. Looking back, there's no doubt that our choice of President Obama led to eight years of progress. Here are just a few examples:
- Health care reform that provided coverage for millions of people, prevented insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, and removed lifetime caps on coverage.
- Advocated for rights. The Obama Administration strongly advocated for the rights of all citizens. The Department of Justice and Department of Education issued a letter to schools telling them not to tolerate bullying -- including bullying against the 6.5 million students with disabilities.
- Signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, pushing the Department of Labor, Department of Education, and other agencies to advance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
- Launched the "Curb Cuts to the Middle Class" initiative focused on hiring people with disabilities to prepare to qualify for jobs with federal contractors and giving those employers tools to recruit and promote them.
- Signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the first new human rights treaty of the 21st century.
Many of my friends and/or Facebook friends have children with disabilities but don't appreciate the advances that have been made under President Obama. People complain about the health system, and there's certainly room for improvement, but if you have a child with a disability or chronic condition, you should cherish and fight to protect the Affordable Care Act. One way or another, changes will be made (and need to be made), but the fundamental principles -- 1) the right to health care, 2) the right to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and 3) the ban on lifetime caps -- must be preserved.
The Impact of a Trump Presidency
There is much fear and speculation about what Trump will do as president, but the first place to look is his stated priorities:
- Repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Something the Republican-led Congress also wants to do.)
- Reverse the expansion of Medicaid. About 10 million people on Medicaid have disabilities, representing 15 percent, and it covers not just health care, but home health aides and other critical services. If Trump repeals the ACA and turns Medicaid into a block grant program, as many as 30 million people could lose their insurance.
There is also concern that Trump will soften enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act, by shifting the priorities of the Department of Justice's civil rights division and other agencies. See "Disability Rights Advocates are Terrified of a Donald Trump White House" from the Huffington Post.
I don't have a crystal ball, but several patterns are emerging:
- President-elect Trump, the "outsider," is filling his transition team with "insiders." Many of them come from the Heritage Foundation, which advocate for traditional conservative positions like cutting taxes on wealthy people and corporations, repealing the Affordable Care Act, and reforming Social Security and Medicaid in ways that would negatively affect families. If you wonder how much the Heritage Foundation cares about families like yours, consider that they strongly advocated AGAINST signing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- The people he is putting on his transition team gives you a good idea of the kind of people who he will appoint to his Cabinet. Remember, many experienced, admired Republican policy experts and government officials have distanced themselves from Trump, so he will have a hard time finding qualified people for many positions. Most will argue for less government "interference," which families like ours may call "protection" for those who most need it. For example, Ben Carson, who's been mentioned as a potential secretary of education or HHS, has said that disability issues can be better managed by "businesses, industry, Wall Street, churches, and community groups." I don't know about you, but I'm not counting on Wall Street to ensure my child's education rights and health care.
- Trump's statements and behavior on the campaign trail have created more division than unity. Now that he's been elected, he's paying lip service to bringing America together, but everything he's said and done so far has had the opposite effect. His campaign has empowered bigots, racists, anti-Semites, and misogynists -- which is even more apparent now that he's been elected. Discrimination is likely to increase, and we can only hope that Trump will enforce existing laws and not weaken them. Let's just say that people with disabilities are not and will not be a high priority among his various constituencies.
- Here are Autism Speaks' legislative priorities. Join Autism Votes to get involved in your state.
- See Easter Seals' priorities and sign up for their Legislative Action Network.
- Follow The Arc's Action Center to keep up with issues that affect you. Sign up for alerts.
- Post a comment or email me to suggest other resources, and I'll add them here.