Palin As Special Needs Advocate?

palinhealth.jpgSarah Palin says she will be an advocate in the White House for parents of children with special needs. No one can deny that having a son with Down Syndrome and a nephew with autism gives Gov. Palin a unique perspective. But what about her record? What has she done as Governor of Alaska to be the advocate that she now promises to be? And more importantly, what will her boss, the Republican nominee for President, do to help special needs kids?

Gov. Palin is currently the subject of two lawsuits alleging that Alaska does not do enough for special needs children. One of the lawsuits was filed by the parent of an autistic child who has to live thousands of miles out of state to get needed care. The lawsuit has been pending over a year. An advocate for children with autism could have found a way to resolve it by now.

On another issue, the Alaska legislature did adopt a new funding formula for school districts this year to better support special needs kids, as reported by Alaska NPR. And in fact, Palin signed the bill. But Rep. Mike Hawkins, the bill’s author, was not about to thank Palin in a recent interview, saying: “She had no role whatsoever. Her role was signing.”

That might be playing politics if Hawkins was a Democrat—but he is a fellow Republican. It seems like an advocate for special needs kids would have found time to be a supporter.

So, if Palin intends to be an advocate as vice-president, it will be a significant change in what she has been doing as Governor.

As VP, it will be up to Palin to support her President’s policy approach. And John McCain’s policy will make it hard—if not impossible—for special needs children to get the coverage that they need.

The Wonk Room has written extensively on how John McCain will make it difficult for those with pre-existing conditions and special needs to get the care that they need. Jocelyn Guyer, a leading national advocate on children’s health, recently echoed our statements by telling the story of a 3-year-old child with Downs Syndrome in Ohio whose family has not been able to obtain health insurance coverage for her.

In fact, the National Down Syndrome Congress has specified its criteria for national health reform. And there is virtually no overlap with the McCain plan. The NDSC has called for reform with key provisions including:

– “Universal access to health care insurance,” but John McCain has not.
– “Comprehensive coverage which cannot be denied because of health of disability status,” but John McCain has not.
– “No preexisting condition exclusions or waiting periods,” but John McCain has not.

If Palin wants to prove she’ll be an advocate for special needs kids, she should start by cleaning up her poor record in Alaska first—and then publicly calling for Sen. McCain to change his health care plan.