Republican U.S. Senate hopefuls Corey Stewart and Del. Nick Freitas may not agree on much, but they did agree on one thing last week: That Medicaid shouldn’t be expanded in Virginia.
The Virginia’s General Assembly took budget votes May 30 to expand Medicaid in the state to cover non-disabled, low-income adults making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or a maximum of $16,643 a year.
State lawmakers debated the issue for five years – ever since the Affordable Care Act made such an expansion possible in 2014 – but Republicans resisted the idea, claiming the federal government could not be trusted to pay its promised 90 percent share of the cost.
Freitas voted against the move last week, and Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors, held a press conference to lambaste Republicans who voted with their Democratic colleagues to open the federal health-care program to an estimated 400,000 low-income Virginians.
“If the goal is to provide quality and affordable health care to all our citizens, government micromanagement is not the answer,” Freitas said in a prepared statement May 30. “We need to focus on policies that allow greater competition and innovation.”
A day after the vote, Freitas said he’s concerned expanding Medicaid will cost more than projected, and that lawmakers will either have to raise taxes or cut funding for other spending priorities, such as education, public safety and transportation.
He also said he’s skeptical the quality of care will be as good as what many are expecting.
“So I just don’t think it was a good plan,” he said.
For his part, Stewart, R-At Large, deplored Republican lawmakers who voted in favor of expanding Medicaid. Four GOP senators joined 19 Democrats to pass the measure in a 23-to-17 vote in the state Senate. The vote was 67 to 31 in the House of Delegates, with 20 Republicans joining 47 Democrats to vote in favor of a budget that includes expansion.
“This is what happens when you elect Republicans who don’t have a backbone, who don’t stand up for anything,” Stewart said.
Expanding Medicaid in Virginia, however, is expected to help 3,400 people in Freitas’ 30thHouse District, which takes in Madison and Orange counties and part of Culpeper County, according to an analysis by the Commonwealth Institute, which scrutinizes public policy.
Stewart has called Freitas, of Culpeper, the “establishment” candidate in the race that also features E.W. Jackson, the 2013 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor. The trio will compete in a primary Tuesday, June 12, for the opportunity to square off against U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, in November.
But Freitas, a 38-year-old national security consultant who has been endorsed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., called that characterization “absurd.”
“I’m a very liberty-minded Republican,” he said.
Having served two combat tours as a Green Beret in the Middle East, Freitas said he believes in strengthening the military but that the U.S. shouldn’t serve as the world’s police force.
He also said he believes in lowering taxes and making the recent Trump administration tax cuts permanent.
Freitas, who is in his second term in the Virginia House, is concerned about the federal regulatory environment, as well, saying too many onerous regulations can stifle economic development.
And, like Stewart, he backs President Donald Trump, though he said as a senator, his responsibility would be to the Constitution and to his constituents.
“I definitely support what the president is doing,” he said.
First and foremost, though, Freitas said he is guided by his Christian faith.
“My dedication to the belief that we all have inherent value and are entitled to liberty and equality before the law is rooted in this worldview,” he said on his campaign website. “Individual liberty, personal responsibility, respect for God and limited, constitutional government are not merely convenient political concepts, but essentials which are fundamental to our liberty, prosperity and security.”
Reach Jonathan Hunley at email@example.com.