Sept. 24, 2010— -- Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle is once again taking heat for comments she made last year that people have to unfairly pay for mandates covered under the umbrella of autism.
At a Tea Party rally in August, 2009, Angle derided a bipartisan bill in Nevada that would require some health insurance policies to provide coverage for screening and treatment of autism.
"Take off the mandates for coverage in the state of Nevada and all over the United States," Angle said. "You know what I'm talking about. You're paying for things that you don't even need."
"They just passed the latest one. Everything they want to throw at us is covered under 'autism' so that's a mandate that you have to pay for," she continued. "How about maternity leave? I'm not going to have any more babies but I sure get to pay for it on my insurance. Those are the kinds of things we want to get rid of."
The Nevada bill that Angle was referring to was signed into law in May, 2009. It covers autism and also increases the size of the Board of Psychological Examiners from five to seven members.
Angle's sentiments on maternity coverage though weren't far off from those of some of her fellow Republicans. Under the new federal health care law, all health insurance policies have to cover maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health and substance abuse and cannot deny care based on pre-existing conditions. Republicans, who argued against these provisions during the health care debates, say the law drives up premiums.
The video of Angle's speech, from a Winnemucca Tea Party Express Rally last year, was circulated by the Nevada State Democratic Party. Criticism of her comments was further fueled by Sen. Harry Reid's campaign, which called the remarks "callous" and "heartless."
Angle's campaign in turn blasted Reid for using the Republican candidate's statements to distract voters from what they call Reid's own failed record.
"Sharron believes that 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 because it creates this huge cottage industry that drives up health insurance cost while diluting the needed coverage for those patients affected by autism," Angle's communications director Jarrod Agen said in an e-mailed statement.
"The real issue continues to be about these costly burdensome government mandates that are forced upon citizens by career politicians like Harry Reid through unwanted legislation like Obamacare," he added. "And nobody is buying Senator Reid's latest despicable attempt of trying to distract voters from his failed record."
Sharron Angle's Autism Remarks Stir Controversy
In a long press release, Reid's campaign attempted to link Angle's remarks on autism with other controversial statements she has made in the past, including a 2009 interview in which Angle agreed with a radio host who said some members of Congress might be "domestic enemies."
"If Sharron Angle is going to engage in scapegoating and fear-mongering to blame high health care costs on autism sufferers and their alleged false or fraudulent claims, she needs to prove it and she needs to quantify it," said a press release issued by Reid's campaign. "Much like her 'domestic enemies' assertions, it's time for Angle to put up or shut up -- or else apologize to the millions of families across America that she's insulted."
This isn't the first time Angle has been at the center of controversy since winning the primary to become the GOP challenger to incumbent Reid.
Democrats called out Angle's Web site for saying that Social Security should be transitioned out in favor of free market alternatives. The Tea Party-backed nominee has since changed her tone, promising that she will save the entitlement program and no longer let government "raid our retirement."
Angle has also said she wants to eliminate the Education Department and spoke about what she termed Second Amendment remedies to take out Reid. The Second Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms.
Recent polls show Angle and Reid virtually tied for the Nevada Senate seat in a race that has attracted millions of dollars from around the country. Republicans see this election as a chance to topple the Senate majority leader in the same way they ousted Tom Daschle from his majority position in 2002.
In Nevada, a state afflicted by the declining economy and job losses, interest in the race is high. On Thursday, 800 people packed the halls of a high school in Las Vegas to attend a Senate candidate forum, where Reid and Angle were both cheered and booed.
Read more about the forum here.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, a fight broke out among attendees when a group of Reid's supporters tried to leave the room while Angle was speaking.
At the forum, Angle again touched upon the subject of health care again, but attempted to avoid controversy.
"We have the finest health care system in the world," the candidate said, adding that "Obamacare" doesn't address costs.