Sharron Angle health care comments incite autism advocates
LAS VEGAS (AP) – A recently released video of Senate candidate Sharron Angle at a 2009 tea party rally shows the Republican declaring that government should not require insurance companies to cover autism or maternity care.
Angle, who supports limited government and opposes the new federal health care law, has slammed government regulation before. But amid calls Wednesday for Angle to apologize for her autism comments, Nevada Democrats are hoping her statements will hurt her credibility in a tight campaign against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“Sharron Angle’s heartless comments, and her refusal to repudiate them and apologize is just further evidence that she’s too extreme and dangerous to represent Nevadans in the U.S. Senate,” Reid spokesman Kelly Steele said in a written statement.
In the video, Angle rallies against mandates in health insurance policies that she says force people to pay for coverage they don’t need.
“They just passed the latest one,” Angle said, referring to a Nevada law that requires autism coverage. “Everything they want to throw at us now is covered under ‘autism,’ so that’s a mandate that you have to pay for.”
She raised her hands to indicate quotation marks around the word “autism.”
“How about maternity leave?” Angle continued. “I’m not going to have any more babies, but I sure get to pay for it on my insurance. So those are the things we want to get rid of.”
Angle has not explained her remarks since Democrats began circulating the video last week, and Angle spokesman Jerry Stacy did not answer questions about her comment.
He said Reid was trying to divert attention from the federal health care law that Republicans want to repeal.
“Sharron Angle believes that Americans deserve the best medical coverage and treatment, and the real issue continues to be about costly unfunded government mandates forced upon Americans by career politicians like Sen. Harry Reid through unwanted legislation like Obamacare, which will reduce the level of needed care while driving up the cost of health insurance,” Stacy said in a statement Wednesday.
It’s a new direction from a statement last week after the video came out. Then, the campaign said, “Sharron believes anyone affected with autism deserves the best medical coverage and treatment, and she speaks out against these expensive government mandates which falsely label other symptoms as autism.”
Angle’s comments in the video echo free market proponents who say government should not tell private insurers what to do.
“The intention may be good but what you are often times going to see is it is going to distort the market,” said Andy Matthews, a spokesman for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a fiscally conservative group in Las Vegas. Matthews is married to an Angle spokeswoman.
But Angle’s Democratic critics say her comments touch on a personal, not economic, issue.
More than 30 health care professionals and families grappling with autism held a rally in Las Vegas on Wednesday calling on Angle to apologize.
“Her use of air quotes, to me, suggests she doesn’t take it seriously,” said Mark Olson, 53, a Reid supporter and the father of an autistic daughter.
Jan Crandy, of the Autism Coalition of Nevada, said many families can’t afford treatment unless insurance companies are forced to provide coverage.
The federal health care law does not directly protect autism patients, but it does require insurance companies to cover behavioral care and people with pre-existing conditions. It also mandates coverage for maternity care.
Critics say the law drives up premiums.