Monday in Austin, candidates for statewide office answered questions during the Texas Disability Issues Forum. It’s only the second such forum held in the state, allowing members of the disability community to hear from those running, ahead of the November elections.
Texas Standard’s Shelly Brisbin says a large coalition of disability activists organized the event, including ADAPT Texas and the Coalition for Texans With Disabilities, as well as various regional groups from around the state. The top state Democratic candidates were there, including gubernatorial hopeful Lupe Valdez and Beto O’Rourke, who’s seeking the U.S. Senate seat. Republican candidates were invited but none attended.
All candidates were asked to fill out a survey before the event, indicating their stance on various disability-related issues. Brisbin says some Democratic candidates responded to the survey, and Gov. Greg Abbott was the only Republican candidate to respond. Much of the forum’s discussion came from those survey responses.
One major topic was coverage for pre-existing conditions in health insurance. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is currently suing the federal government, along with several other states, to get rid of the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. If he succeeds, that would remove protections that guarantee equitable health insurance for those with pre-existing health conditions. Justin Nelson, Paxton’s challenger in November’s attorney general race, vehemently opposes Paxton’s stance on the health-care law.
“Ken Paxton is trying to take away pre-existing-condition protections using Texas taxpayer dollars….It is so, so, so wrong,” Nelson said during the forum.
Brisbin says while Democratic candidates are starting to court the disability community, the activists themselves should be credited with bringing disability-related issues to the fore.
“Up to now, there have been a lot of grassroots groups trying to get the attention of politicians,” Brisbin says. “Nobody wants to be on the wrong side of supporting the needs of folks with disabilities, but at the same time, if you don’t hold politicians’ feet to the fire on particular issues, then they get the opportunity to skate free.”
One area of agreement among activists and politicians was increased pay for at-home attendants. Brisbin says Abbott supports increasing their pay and and said in his response to the forum survey that he would consider shifting money from state-supported living centers in order to fund the pay increase.
Written by Caroline Covington.