April 2 is Light It Up Blue day, which is aimed to raise awareness about autism. House Speaker Paul Ryan wanted his followers to know that he cares about the neurodevelopmental disorder, but a cursory glance at his political record, specifically his position on health care, says the opposite. In fact, Ryan's tweet on autism awareness is full of contradictions.
Ryan passionately supported the American Health Care Act, which would have severely affected individuals and families who are impacted by the autism spectrum disorder. Under the Affordable Care Act, as well as state mandates for autism service coverages, Americans who are autistic have a safety net to fall back on. But under the AHCA, they would have been exposed to multiple difficulties and potential dangers.
For instance, under the AHCA, people who lapsed in insurance coverage and then wished to re-enter the market would be penalized longer and heavier. Before they could return to the standard market rate, they would end up paying as high as a 30 percent surcharge on their premium. This would have carried devastating consequences for those requiring constant assistance by rendering health care out of their financial reach.
Ryan's consistent opposition to Obamacare as well as Sunday's tweet demonstrate a lack of awareness that is fairly astonishing.
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are not allowed to deny coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions, which includes the diagnosis of autism. If Ryan cared about autism as much as his tweeted photo claims, he would not have lampooned the ACA, which essentially covers health benefits for all Americans. Remember, the ACA covers not only treatment but also habilitative and rehabilitative services and screenings plus prescription drugs.
Understandably, people reacted to his photo with criticism. Given his track record, it seemed unbelievable to some people that he would even care about autism, much less about creating awareness.
Others claimed that Ryan's efforts invested in replacing and repealing the ACA would have adversely affected research geared toward autism awareness.
In a report in ABC News, healthcare experts from the University of Pennsylvania and Johns Hopkins University explained that the AHCA would have placed autism and disability coverage in danger. By restructuring Medicaid, which helps 250,000 children with autism in the United States, the program would have no longer received open-ended federal funding but per-person funding. This would have hurt lower-income Americans enrolled in the program by weakening the financial strength of the program. Ryan is the same person who said he had been "dreaming" of cutting Medicaid since he was a college student. Vanity Fair reported his actual words, "We have been dreaming of this since I have been around, since you and I were drinking at a keg."
Here's a friendly suggestion. Instead of tweeting a pin, politicians should exert sincere efforts in strengthening social and health-based programs for autistic Americans. With a track record like Ryan's, a tweet with a pin meant to raise awareness is a little too contradictory for anyone to actually believe.