Under Virginia's Public Procurement Act, Virginia's government agencies may not engage with vendors that deny services to people falling in certain protected categories. Among these categories is a prohibition on age discrimination. Virginia, however, holds a state-wide contract for services with Enterprise. Any state employee renting a car while on travel status is required to use Enterprise's rental fleet. Enterprise refuses service to legal adults between the ages of 18 and 20 unless there is an active military affiliation. While charging higher insurance premiums for drivers with less experience is a common practice to adjust for risk, outright refusal of services to legal adults should not be tolerated in the Commonwealth.
My first job after graduating from Virginia Tech was with an international health development non-profit that provided, among other health interventions, family planning services such as contraceptives, a fertility awareness tool called CycleBeads, and access to safe abortions in countries where women frequently resorted to desperate self-abortion techniques. Recent General Assembly actions taken in the name of women's safety have worked to undermine access to abortions. Some of these actions violate the very rights to privacy confirmed by Roe v. Wade and I am dismayed that elected officials believe they have the right to determine how patients and doctors should interact while considering a legal procedure. Being Pro-Choice, which I am, is not the same as being "anti-life;" it is about accepting that there is a continuum of beliefs about what intervention options are acceptable to different people and supporting the rights of those individuals to choose for themselves how to plan a family. Abortion is a decision that is not taken lightly by the patient or by the doctors performing it. Regardless of where you stand, I urge you to read this published interview series that presents the experiences of four OB/GYN residents. It personalizes the perspective of medical care providers in an unbiased and non-sensational way.
Health care is a service. Health insurance is a product. Unfortunately, the two have been conflated and we now have working families paying the equivalent of a year's public university tuition just to have access to medical care. I am a state employee covered by the Commonwealth of Virginia's Anthem CoVA Care plan. The total insurance premium for my family of four now exceeds $20,000 per year. The Affordable Care Act was written with good intentions, but "care" was equated to "coverage," not actual time with a doctor or nurse. What I feel is the best means of access to care, not just a product, is a single-payer health care system. Care providers have to negotiate procedure costs with each insurance company they accept, dedicate space and staff to insurance coding and billing, and after all of that, they still must act as collection agencies for that share of uncovered costs for which the patient is responsible out of pocket. The old canard is that malpractice insurance is why health care is so expensive today when in fact a great deal can be chalked up to the overhead costs associated with negotiating and billing health insurance companies for services rendered.
Even if a distressing number of elected positions in Virginia weren't uncontested, the gerrymandering of districts provides a distinct advantage to incumbents who while in office are able to carve up counties and towns to their advantage. The General Assembly's failure to meet deadlines for redistricting action underscores the need for independent redistricting. If elected, I would support a constitutional amendment that would empower an independent, nonpartisan redistricting commission to redraw the districts in the Commonwealth. It is time to end the finger-pointing over whose responsibility it is to take the next move and let an independent commission rather than the legislature or the courts decide how to fairly divide the population into voting districts.
Sex Offenses Committed by Minors
Should Virginia condemn minors to a lifetime of sex offender registration for sending nude pictures of themselves to others? I am of the strong opinion it is stupid, but not criminal. Smartphones and immediate dissemination to a huge network have meant that teenagers doing something dumb spreads like wildfire. The General Assembly needs to consider a tiered system for offenses that are sexual in nature so that youthful folly does not haunt Virginia's youth for years to come.