Senator Tim Kaine (D-Virginia) appeared on the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) Patients Come First podcast on Sunday. Kaine explained two upcoming financial relief packages, provided an update on Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution, explained his Medicare-X Choice Act, and detailed his COVID-19 symptoms.
“It was very odd. So, I had my whole staff state to telecom on March 11,  because there had started to be some spread of COVID in the Capitol,” he said. “In late March I all of the sudden got hit with like a blizzard of severe allergic reactions. Pink eye, skin rashes that would pop up on one part of my body and then go away and then pop up somewhere else.”
Kaine said he thought it was an allergic reaction. “I didn’t have the traditional symptoms – respiratory problems or fatigue,” he said.
When he got home, his wife developed the traditional COVID-19 symptoms, and doctors told them they likely had COVID-19, a fact that was confirmed by antibody testing later. His wife recovered with no lingering symptoms. Kaine said they both had mild cases, but he has continued to have lingering effects from the disease.
“The quirky news for me, it’s not bad news, it’s just quirky, and it shows how challenging the virus is, I continue to have real neurological issues basically since mid-April, which is nerve endings tingling 24-7 all over my body, which was one of the symptoms that kicked in in March that hasn’t gone away,” he said. “It’s not painful, it’s not debilitating, I’ve continued working.”
“Instead of the skin rashes that would appear and then go away, I had this sort of heating-pad phenomenon where it will feel like somebody put a heating pad on a part of my body and turned it on for about 15 minutes, then [it] turns off. And then later in the day it will happen somewhere else. And I’ve had that also since basically mid-April,” he said.
“The good news is, compared to some of the long-haul symptoms that others report, especially fatigue and respiratory problems, I’ve got plenty of energy, I’m doing a lot of exercise. It doesn’t stop me at work,” he said.
Kaine said, “It shows that it is a very unusual virus.”
Medicare-X Choice Act
He said, “[The Medicare-X Choice Act] would be a new insurance policy that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)] would make available on the exchange for individuals or small businesses.”
Kaine said, “Because CMS doesn’t need to collect a profit, return to shareholders, pay fancy salaries, advertise on the news, pay local state and federal taxes, the premium on this plan would be very reasonable, and if you qualify for an Obamacare tax credit subsidy, you could bring the reasonable premium down even lower.”
VHHA’s Vice President of Communications Julian Walker noted that hospitals are concerned that the lower reimbursement rates of Medicare mean that hospitals will lose revenue if Medicare is expanded to more people. Kaine said his bill included special provisions for rural hospitals who don’t have as many customers.
“We suggest that rural hospitals, because of lower volumes of patients, could get reimbursed at up to 150 percent of the traditional Medicare reimbursement rates,” he said.
COVID-19 Relief and Vaccine Distribution
Kaine also explained upcoming financial relief legislation, saying that legislators were planning two packages, one focused on immediate relief, and one focused on long term economic recovery.
Kaine said that although Virginia’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution was poor earlier in the year, federal supply chains, new guidance to not hold doses in reserve, and switching away from a regional sign-up system to a state-wide system.
He said, “With an uncertain federal partner in the last administration, states like Virginia were deciding that they probably should be prudent and hold some back, but that meant that we were not vaccinating enough people. Now, the supply chain is producing sufficiently that states can administer all the vaccines they get.”
January 6 Capitol Riots
Kaine told about his experience in the U.S. Capitol during the January 6, when a number of protestors entered the Capitol while lawmakers were in the final stages of certifying the Electoral College vote.
“It was a day that I never would have imagined, that I’m never going to forget, and I never want to repeat,” Kaine said. “In fact, even looking at scenes of it now, I have a hard time watching it, because I just don’t want to repeat it.”
Kaine described how legislators were debating Arizona’s electoral votes when they heard noise outside. “We were barricaded in the chamber for what seemed like 40 minutes. We heard what sounded like a gunshot down toward the House side of the Capitol. It just was very eerie,” he said.
“I was furious that the President preaching the big lie over and over and over again had led to this. I was furious at some of the perpetrators who were doing this. There were people with Confederate flags or Camp Auschwitz t-shirts and others, just people who believe in hate and preach hate,” Kaine said.
“I was also sad for some of the others. Everybody there wasn’t a white supremacist or Neo-Nazi, but the people who were there had been bamboozled by the President,” Kaine said. “They had been fed a diet of lies for years, and especially in the last few months. And they had fallen for it, and that made me extremely angry.”
The National Guard
Kaine praised the National Guard.
“Here’s a thank you: The Virginia National Guard,” Kaine said. “During the pandemic I’ve seen the Guard doing testing at senior centers, around the state. I’ve seen the Guard at food distribution sites and food banks, and when I was at the Salem Civic Center, I saw Virginia National Guard helping with the vaccination campaign.”
“So if you know a Virginia Guardsman or woman, thank them, because they definitely have been doing some important work,” he said. “They also came to help the Capitol in the aftermath of the attack on January 6.
Kaine said, “It’s been a time where our guardsmen and women have really, really come through in a great way.”
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