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Let’s Pass the ABLE Act!

An Op-Ed by Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins

As a parent, raising children is an unbelievable joy that comes with great responsibility. These responsibilities can and often increase tenfold for parents who care for a child with a disability.

There is documented data that shows raising a child born with Down syndrome or Autism can be very difficult financially due to increased costs for medications, doctors, therapy, and general care. A recent study predicted that a child with autism and intellectual disabilities will cost a family $2.5 million over a lifetime.

For many middle class parents, this amount far exceeds their means and managing the expenses is extremely difficult. The bottom line is no American family should be forced into bankruptcy due to the high costs of raising a child who needs care.

Only families who care for children with disabilities can ever truly understand the struggles, but as a country, we can do more to help.

Congress recently came together to pass the largest piece of legislation impacting Americans with disabilities in nearly 25 years. The Achieving a Better Life Experience Act, also known as the ABLE Act, will make it easier for families with individuals with disabilities to save money for their care and not be penalized for doing so.

The ABLE Act sets up tax-free savings accounts to be used on expenses related to the beneficiary’s disability, similar to 529 savings accounts that let parents set aside funds for college costs. These ABLE accounts can act as a buffer to cover medical expenses not covered by insurance, Medicaid, or Social Security Disability Insurance.

For many families, these accounts will offer some peace-of-mind knowing that future costs for housing, transportation or medical care, can be mitigated in part by these savings.

It is rare for a bill to gain as much bipartisan support in Congress as the ABLE Act did. Over 380 Representatives and 74 Senators rallied behind the bill all thanks to the tireless efforts of the advocates and organizations who fought day in and day out on Capitol Hill to get it passed.  I am hopeful that the Senate will take up this bill before the end of the 113th Congress and the President will sign it into law.

For me, the ABLE Act was an opportunity to support sensible, compassionate policy that will expand opportunities for independence, empower families, and make a real difference in many American’s lives.