With the General Assembly elections this November, we’re looking at how candidates in competitive races stand on the issues that matter. For first-time candidates who have not had an opportunity to vote on these issues, we’ll assess their position based on their current policy platform, party affiliation and past statements.

Today, we’re focusing on healthcare, which Virginians rank among their top voting issues, according to an August poll conducted by Roanoke College. In recent years, the discussion around healthcare in Virginia has focused on the Affordable Care Act and expanding Medicaid.

In February 2017 the General Assembly voted to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act in Virginia if it was repealed on the federal level. That included the rules that prevent insurers from rejecting people with pre-existing conditions. That bill, introduced by Del. Kathy Bryon (R-Lynchburg), passed the House of Delegates and Senate with Republican votes, but was ultimately vetoed by Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam.

It wasn’t the last time Republicans would pass a bill that would make it harder for the more than 3.4 million Virginians living with a pre-existing condition to get insurance. The General Assembly passed a bill this year to allow insurers to sell so-called “short-term” plans that are also not required to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

In 2018, the Virginia state legislature voted to expand Medicaid and make health insurance available to 400,000 low-income Virginians. In passing the measure, Democrats overcame years of Republican opposition, though some Republicans ultimately supported the expansion despite previously standing in its way.

Senate District 8 (Virginia Beach City)

Missy Cotter Smasal (D): Cotter Smasal supports the 2018 Medicaid expansion that made health insurance available and has said that Virginians “deserve quality plans that come fairly priced and actually cover their needs.”

William DeSteph Jr. (R): Senator DeSteph voted against Medicaid expansion in 2018. DeSteph also voted to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act in Virginia if it is ever repealed on the federal level, and voted to allow the state to sell “short-term” insurance plans that are not required to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

Senate District 13 (Parts of Loudon and Prince William counties)

John Bell (D): As a delegate in the House, Bell voted to expand Medicaid in 2018. In 2018, Bell said that he “has always supported expanding access to healthcare.” During an official visit to hospital in 2017, Bell spoke frankly about “basic right of health care” and protecting it from attacks.

Geary Higgins (R): The Dogwood was unable to locate a statement from Higgins, a first-time candidate, on the question of Medicaid expansion. We have reached out to his office for clarification.

House District 85 (Virginia Beach City)

Alex Askew (D): Candidate Askew supports Virginians access to healthcare, and says the General Assembly “must continue to protect every Virginian’s access to affordable healthcare.” Askew also supports Medicaid expansion, and touts that he helped craft the legislation as a legislative aide in 2018.

Rocky Holcomb (R): Holcomb lost his bid for re-election in 2017 and did not vote on the 2018 budget bill to expand Medicaid. However, during his prior tenure in the legislature, he opposed Medicaid expansion. While he has discussed the importance of lowering healthcare costs, his campaign has not released any specific policies on how he will do that.

House District 28 (Parts of Stafford County and Fredericksburg City)

Joshua Cole (D): Cole says, “passing Medicaid expansion was a huge win for Virginians, and long overdue.” Cole also opposes the requirements that were tacked on by many Republicans, saying he would fight to remove the work requirement.

Paul Milde (R): Milde said he would repeal Medicaid expansion in Virginia if elected. He also described expanding Medicaid as “the exact wrong thing to do if the goal is to fix our healthcare system.” In a debate, Milde also said that he believes government involvement in healthcare would result in price increases. 

House District 66 (Parts of Chesterfield County, Colonial Heights City and Richmond City)

Sheila Bynum-Coleman (D): Bynum-Coleman supports Medicaid expansion. She has also spoken on her support of healthcare more generally, saying “I believe that everyone should have access to affordable, quality healthcare as a right.”

Kirk Cox (R): Cox opposed Medicaid expansion for five years before reluctantly supporting its passage in 2018. According to his website, he “remains concerned” about it. Cox also voted to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act in Virginia if it is ever repealed on the federal level, and voted to allow the state to sell “short-term” insurance plans that are not required to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

House District 76 (Parts of Suffolk City and Chesapeake City)

Clint Jenkins (D): Jenkins has made defending Medicaid expansion a central tenant of his 2019 campaign. Protecting Medicaid expansion “from Republican attacks” is among the priorities currently listed on his campaign website. Jenkins also supports other progressive measures like increased healthcare transparency and community health centers.

Chris Jones (R): The Washington Post once recognized Jones as “a leader in the fight against Medicaid expansion.” He eventually flip-flopped in 2018 and supported it with work requirements. Jones also voted to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act in Virginia if it is ever repealed on the federal level, and voted to allow the state to sell “short-term” insurance plans that are not required to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

House District 83 (Parts of Virginia Beach City and Norfolk City)

Nancy Guy (D): Guy has said the upcoming election is “about ensuring that every Virginian has access to quality, affordable healthcare.”     

Chris Stolle (R): Stolle opposed Medicaid expansion for years. However, the doctor had a change of heart in 2018 and voted in favor of expansion on the condition of work requirements. Stolle also voted to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act in Virginia if it is ever repealed on the federal level, and voted to allow the state to sell “short-term” insurance plans that are not required to cover people with pre-existing conditions.

House District 94 (Newport News City)

Shelly Simonds (D): Simonds supports Medicaid expansion. She also has condemned Republican efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and said her top priority as Delegate will be to “protect our healthcare and pass legislation to prohibit price gouging in prescription drugs.”

David Yancey (R): Delegate Yancey consistently voted against Medicaid Expansion until 2018, when he switched his vote to support budget amendments expanding Medicaid as long as there were work requirements. He also voted to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act in Virginia if it is ever repealed on the federal level, and voted to allow the state to sell “short-term” insurance plans that are not required to cover people with pre-existing conditions.