WASHINGTON — Hillary Clinton on Tuesday proposed increasing nationwide screening for children with autism and boosting funding for medical research about the disorder as part of a wider plan to improve care for people with the condition.
The Democratic presidential nominee also said that she would launch an initiative to help young adults with autism transition after their high school graduation and called for a first-ever study to quantify the prevalence of autism among US adults.
“Too many American families are staying up at night worrying about their family members, especially children, who are living with autism,” Clinton said in a statement. “There is more we can do.”
The plan, which Clinton will discuss at an Iowa town hall on Tuesday, expands her health policy platform, which already featured proposals to lower prescription drug costs and expand research about Alzheimer’s.
More than 3.5 million Americans are on the autism spectrum, according to the Autism Society, one out of every 68 births. Clinton proposed a nationwide outreach effort, led by the US Department of Health and Human Services, to increase screening for young children. It would focus on reminding doctors and parents that health plans offered under the Affordable Care Act must cover screening for infants at 18 and 24 months and that Medicaid also has screening coverage. Most states also already require all insurance to cover autism services, and Clinton pledged to push the remaining states to make that coverage mandatory.
Clinton also said that she would increase research funding for the National Institutes of Health, including for autism studies, though she did not specify the amount. She singled out Autism Speaks’ genome sequencing project and open data platform, the Simons Foundation’s autism research initiative, and the NIH Autism Sequencing Consortium as ongoing research projects that would help deepen scientific understanding of the disorder.
She said she would also direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct a first-ever population survey of autism among US adults, citing the example of the United Kingdom’s recent study and arguing it would help the United States improve services for adults with autism.
Other features of Clinton’s plan included directing the US Department of Education to help schools create transition plans for students with autism, so they can graduate and find a job or get into college, and new funding under the Developmental Disabilities Act for people who help provide ongoing long-term care for family members with autism.