Kaine Brings Record of ACA Support to Ticket

BNA’s Health Care Daily Report™ sets the standard for reliable, high-intensity coverage of breaking health care news, covering all major legal, policy, industry, and consumer developments in a...

By Nathaniel Weixel

July 25 — The selection of Sen. Tim Kaine as Hillary Clinton's running mate gives Clinton a reliable liberal partner who complements her experience in health-care policy.

Unlike the choice of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as Republican candidate Donald Trump's running mate, experts say Kaine doesn't add as much to the Democratic ticket from a health policy perspective, because Clinton herself has an extensive record.

Kaine “will be an effective complementary presence,” Bloomberg Government analyst Brian Rye said in a July 25 interview. “If you have a candidate who isn’t all that interested in policy, there’s an opportunity for a running mate to do something, but Clinton is well versed in policy. So he won’t have to fill in any gaps in her own policy.”

Kaine is viewed by many Democrats as a pragmatist who can work across the aisle. He was elected to the Senate in 2012, and was governor from 2006 to 2010.

ACA, Health IT

In many ways, Kaine is a prototypical Democrat. He fully supports the Affordable Care Act, but still thinks it can be improved. As governor he worked to expand health information technology and to implement a variety of value-based payment reforms.

He supports efforts to lower prescription drug costs, and sponsored legislation that was included in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524), the anti-opioid abuse bill that President Barack Obama signed on July 22 (142 HCDR, 7/25/16).

Kaine also co-sponsored the Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act, a bipartisan bill that allowed businesses with 51 to 100 employees to continue buying large group health insurance plans. The bill was signed into law in 2015.

“As a VP nominee, he is not going to be very vocal on anything that isn’t in lockstep with Hillary,” Rye said. “He'll be toeing the party line, and her line.”

Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, announced Kaine as her vice presidential pick July 22. The Democratic National Convention kicked off July 25 in Philadelphia.

Abortion

One issue that could hurt him among many progressives is abortion. Kaine is a Catholic, and has said he has a religious objection to abortion.

When he was running for governor in 2005, he pledged to reduce the number of terminated pregnancies in Virginia by enforcing the state's restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on late-term “partial birth” abortion that protects the life and health of the mother. He vowed to fight teen pregnancy through abstinence-focused education, and promoted adoption and access to contraception.

He has supported a requirement for parental consent before an abortion—with an exception if it's waived by a judge—as well as “informed consent” policies, where a provider is required to tell a patient about alternatives to abortion, including adoption.

Since his election to the Senate in 2012, Kaine has been seen as strongly pro-choice. He has earned a 100 percent rating from both NARAL Pro-Choice and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund scorecard. He has consistently voted against measures that would defund Planned Parenthood, and also against a ban on abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy.

Abortion rights groups have said Clinton has the strongest record on reproductive health of any candidate in recent history, so any vice presidential pick would be expected to be in lockstep with her going forward on reproductive health and rights.

“Senator Kaine is a thoughtful running mate with integrity, whose Senate record has proven he will stand strong against politically motivated efforts to restrict patient access to critical, often lifesaving health care,” Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards said in a statement. “Senator Kaine has made it clear that he will protect women from government interference when it comes to their right to safe, legal abortion. Hillary has chosen a leader who has dedicated his life to fight for equity and justice in our country.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support for Planned Parenthood.

Religious Freedom

Kaine also has spoken out against the Supreme Court's Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision on objections to contraception coverage, and has co-sponsored legislation to overturn it.

Republicans blocked the bill from advancing, but the legislation sparked a wider debate about religious freedom and access to contraception. The 2014 decision allowed for-profit corporations to seek religious exceptions to the ACA's mandate that employers pay for contraception (126 HCDR, 7/1/14).

“I cannot understand how a majority of the Supreme Court can say that an employer, for religious reasons, may deprive employees of health care coverage for contraception but for no other standard medical service or treatment. It makes the case less about religious freedom and more about denial of access to contraception. I am mystified that the Court chose to join an ideological battle against contraception,” Kaine said in a statement after the decision.

Drug Prices, Opioids

Clinton is likely to make rising drug prices a major campaign issue, and has proposed solutions that include allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Kaine is also a supporter of that policy. As a senator, he co-sponsored a bill (S. 31) in 2015 that would have allowed the secretary of health and human services to directly negotiate with drug companies for price discounts. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) was one of the sponsors of the bill.

“The federal government should be allowed to negotiate for lower prices for Medicare recipients, just like the Department of Veterans Affairs does. As we grapple with tough budget challenges, we cannot afford to put off commonsense reforms that lower healthcare spending and save taxpayer money,” Kaine said in a statement in 2015 when he introduced the bill.

Kaine also has shared the outrage over the dramatic rise in drug prices. He sits on the Special Committee on Aging, a bipartisan panel that has held hearings on that issue.

He also has been an outspoken advocate of opioid addiction treatments, and authored legislation to enable more health professionals to get naloxone—a safe and effective antidote to opioid overdoses—into the homes of people who are at-risk of overdose.

“We've got to move forward on steps that we know can reduce overdose deaths,” Kaine said in a Senate floor speech in 2015 about his legislation. “This is just one solution. Obviously the real solutions, the important ones, are still around prevention.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Nathaniel Weixel in Washington at nweixel@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brian Broderick at bbroderick@bna.com

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.