Just under a week after his debate against Republican George Allen, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine visited Roanoke today, partly to tour the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute.
As governor, Kaine signed the 2008 bond package that included $59 million to start the school, but he hasn’t visited since the groundbreaking that fall.
“It’s exactly the kind of thing we need to be doing in our commonwealth and in our nation, which is focusing on brain power and innovation,” Kaine said of the college. “There’s so much fantastic potential in medical research and then applying that to the treatment of patients that it’s just really good to get to see what’s happening here in the Roanoke Valley with this project.”
Kaine also tied the school into his greater campaign theme of investing in programs and projects that develop homegrown talent.
“The basic issue is America’s dealing with challenges, but let’s learn some lessons from Virginia as we try to solve them,” Kaine said. “I think what Virginia has done so well that’s pulled us from back of the pack to front of the pack in per capita income is we’ve invested in brain power. So here we are at this state of the art facility that combines clinical care with medical education with cutting edge research, largely focused upon the brain development issues. That is not only training the next generation of doctors but it’s producing economic benefits for the region and for the commonwealth and hopefully finding cures and solutions that will improve patient care.”
Since Kaine made himself available to the press at a medical school, I asked him about the 2009 health care reform law and how the anticipated ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court this summer on the measure’s constitutionality might affect the campaign.
Kaine talked up four pieces of the plan that have already gone into effect: The allowance for children to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26; a prohibition on insurance companies turning down patients for pre-existing conditions; tax credits for small businesses to buy insurance; and the expansion of credits to help seniors pay for prescriptions and to receive free preventative care.
However, Kaine didn’t address the most controversial aspect of the law — the individual mandate that will require people to purchase health insurance if they don’t already have it — so I asked about that directly.
“In a way there’s been a mandate for a long time, and the mandate is this: If you’re sick, if you’re in an accident or something, if you go to a hospital, they have to treat you. That has a cost. That cost gets spread and put on the shoulders of people who have bought health insurance for themselves.
“What the mandate basically is, it’s the same thing that we require for people who drive cars. If you’re going to be out on the road, you’ve got to have auto insurance so that if you do something stupid, others are not just going to be victimized by you without recourse. The mandate means that the cost of your care isn’t just put on someone else’s shoulder.”
Kaine said he expected the Senate race between him and a Republican — likely Allen — to be somewhat affected by the presidential race at the top of the ballot. However, he said that he and Allen are both well-known, and both have established records. That, Kaine said, may lead to more ticket-splitting than some observers may expect.
– Mason Adams