Opinion: Issues That Matter

Opinion: Issues That Matter

Mental health services discussion gives insight into real differences between candidates.

It came as somewhat of a relief to have the candidates for governor in Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D), discuss an actual issue that matters to many Virginia families this week at a forum on mental health issues.

While press coverage of Cuccinelli and McAuliffe might lead one to believe that they are two similar, ethically challenged candidates, in fact they differ dramatically in their views about key issues affecting Virginia.

Money is critical to providing appropriate mental health services. So is access to health insurance that covers treatment for mental illness.

Virginia has an opportunity to expand health care for poor residents, with the bill paid by the federal government. Virginians are already paying the taxes that fund the expansion of Medicaid in other states. This would provide coverage for individuals with income up to $14,856 — $30,656 for a family of four.

Cuccinelli opposes expanding Medicaid; McAuliffe supports it.

Virginia stands to lose more than $9.2 billion in federal funds over the first five years if it opts out of Medicaid expansion to individuals and families with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty level.

It’s a travesty that legislators engaged in partisan grandstanding could get to decide that as many as 400,000 Virginians would not get access to health coverage.

About 13 percent of Northern Virginia residents do not have health insurance. Fairfax County government, which supports the expansion, says it would provide coverage for 25,000 to 30,000 Fairfax County residents.

Beyond Gifts and Disclosure

It’s unlikely that there will be a special session of the General Assembly to address “holes” in Virginia’s disclosure laws. No doubt some changes to rules on gifts to candidates and officials and their families will emerge from the next session of the Virginia General Assembly, which begins in January.

Virginia is one of only a few states with no limits on campaign contributions and little oversight on campaign spending, setting the stage for abuses beyond gifts, shopping sprees, etc. Reform should move beyond gifts and into genuine campaign finance reform.

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