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To Balance Budget, McDonnell Nixes Eye Care for Poor


Gov. Bob McDonnell has been getting exposure in the national media, including an appearance on Sean Hannity's conservative talk show, as an up-and-coming Republican governor with a knack for balancing budgets.

He's been credited with managing to turn Virginia's budget deficit of $1.8 billion into a surplus of $220 million.

But critics have noticed that he's done so, in part, by deferring $620 million in pension fund payments for state workers.

Now McDonnell is under fire for cutting $764,000 from Medicaid funds in the budget — money allocated to low-income families for routine eye exams.

Bruce Keeney, executive director of the Virginia Optometric Association, says that the governor should reinstate those payments so that the poor can be assured of good eye care. In Virginia about 70 percent of primary eye care is handled by optometrists.

“We found right before the budget went into effect that a federal law says that if you covered eye care for a patient before, you can't cut it,” Keeney says. “We told the governor this in June. … We've been waiting seven weeks for a response.”

Taylor Thornley, the governor's deputy press secretary, says that administration members, including Secretary of Health and Human Services Bill Hazel, have met with the optometrists' group. Taylor says the governor has just received the matter for review and “will make a decision soon.”

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