Kaine campaigns for healthcare

Senator Tim Kaine says he's optimistic about the fate of health insurance.
Photo Eric Swensen Senator Tim Kaine says he’s optimistic about the fate of health insurance. Photo Eric Swensen

Senator Tim Kaine, fresh on the heels of a losing run for vice president alongside Hillary Clinton, hosted a town hall event with UVA medical students Friday to discuss the Affordable Care Act.

Kaine was recently appointed to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, alongside other heavy hitters such as Rand Paul, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and he joked that this new position was a “consolation prize for winning the popular vote, but losing the bid to be vice president.”

His stop in Charlottesville is one of many in which he has listened and learned from healthcare professionals. And on Sunday he attended a rally against the repeal of affordable care in Richmond.

Kaine told the UVA audience that rural hospitals and reproductive health are most at stake if the ACA is repealed. He described attending a remote area medical project event at the Virginia-Kentucky fairgrounds, and seeing cars from as far away as Oklahoma. Repealing Obamacare without a proper replacement is saying, “I will jump off a cliff and figure out how to land once I’m in the air,” he said.

When Kaine opened the floor for questions, many hands shot up. Sam Kessel, a second-year med student from Massachusetts, asked about prescription costs and what Congress was doing to protect consumers from monopolies like the manufacturer of EpiPen.

Kaine explained that there’s no “all-purpose price control” in government and that some pharmaceutical companies are taking a “patient as hostage model.” He also suggested that President-elect Donald Trump’s deal-making skills could be a good thing in negotiating prescription drug pricing.

Thomas Xiao, a fourth-year from Fairfax, asked about Democratic and Republican cooperation within in the Senate. Kaine said that sometimes he’s a little too optimistic and naïve, but he thinks that some cooperation for a reform instead of a replacement plan or a replacement-repeal at the same time might be possible.

The event ended with Kaine talking to the press and students who still had questions and posing for Facebook and Instagram photos. He and his team then climbed into a salt-smeared station wagon to visit the Boys & Girls Club on Cherry Avenue later that afternoon.