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Clinton's autism plan

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
CLINTON WEEKEND CAMPAIGN NOTEBOOK
SIOUX CITY, IA -- Hillary Clinton used the first stop on a
two-day, post-Thanksgiving swing through Iowa on Saturday to lay out a
$700 million a year plan to help people affected by autism. The money
would be spent for research and provide support for families and
teachers dealing with the disorder, as well as for autistic children
and adults.

The senator said autism diagnoses had risen dramatically in the last 15
years to some 25,000 each year, affecting 1.5 million Americans and
their families and costing the country at least $35 billion a annually.
She talked about spending time with a child with autism while living in
Little Rock and her work on behalf of children with disabilities over
the years.

Clinton said not enough was known about what she called one of the most
urgent and least understood challenges facing the nation and not enough
services were available to deal with it.

"I think it's time we had a government and a president who recognized
the seriousness of autism and addressed it head on," Clinton told the
crowd at a local Boy's Club. She said she was at the club because of
the work the organization does to provide services for children with
autism.

Clinton's plan would double investments in the National Institutes of Health's efforts to identify the causes of the disorder, including possible environmental causes. Fully funding the "Combating Autism Act," a Clinton co-sponsored bill that became law in 2006, would cost $200 million a year and would be covered by the senator's initiative to increase the NIH budget by doubling it over 10 years. The other $500 million would come from savings from improving government efficiency, said spokesman Jay Carson.

"The federal government wastes billions of dollars each year in making improper payments based on procurement and contractual arrangements between agencies and service providers," Carson said. "Implementing the GAO's recommendations for streamlining the payment process could reduce improper payments by at least $3 billion per year. Hillary will allocate a portion of this savings to fund her autism services program."

One audience member, her head shaved and painted red, white and blue with "Hillary" written along the side, thanked the senator for talking about the disorder. The woman said she had lost her hair due to cancer and that she was an adoptive parent of two autistic children.

During the question-and-answer session, a man asked Clinton whether her administration would be willing to tackle the issue of providing universal health care for all Americans, regardless of their immigration status.

"We have to have a safety net, but I have not included people who are undocumented in my health care plan," Clinton said. "I don't think we can do that until we deal with comprehensive immigration reform. Just on a matter of humanity and morality, we want to be able to take care of people on an emergency basis, so there are certain services that we should provide through a safety net system."

The senator was late to the event due to travel delays, according to campaign co-chair and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. He spoke to the crowd for about 10 minutes about the responsibility Iowans have in choosing the nominee. He also said Iowa voters had an opportunity to make history on Jan. 3 and stressed that Clinton had been battle-tested when it came to withstanding Republican attacks.

The former governor asked the men in the audience to think about a young girl or woman in their lives as the senator spoke.

"Think about being able to go to her on the day after the election and being able to say to her that for the first time in American history, every opportunity, every opportunity, not just the union president or the college president or the doctor or the lawyer or the teacher or the nurse -- every opportunity is now available to both men and women in this country. It is what America is about," Vilsack said, calling this election an "enormous chance."