As the coronavirus crisis changes everything and the future of health care becomes a more critical issue than ever, Dr. Leo Valentin is counting on his professional background to stand out in a three-way brawl for the Republican nomination to run in Florida’s 7th Congressional District.
Valentin, operates a diagnostic radiology practice in Orlando and previously served as president of Professional Hospital in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico.
He hopes voters in Seminole County and north and central Orange County want there to be another doctor in the House. For him, the issue is dealing with the economics of health care, especially in the coronavirus crisis.
“I’ve always said the economy and health care are connected. They’re both important. We can’t have the economy without health care and we can’t have health care without a good economy,” Valentin said. “So we need to balance our approach so we protect lives and livelihoods. … It’s important to recognize, for example, what things the government can do well and where we don’t want a lot of government intervention.”
Valentin, of Orlando, is in a three-way battle for the August 18 Republican primary in CD 7 with financier Richard Goble of Longwood and businessman Yukong Zhao of Orlando. The winner will take on Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park in the November election, a likely steep hill to climb for any of them even though CD 7 used to be a reliably Republican district.
There are 14 physicians currently in the U.S. House of Representatives, including Dr. Neal Dunn of Panama City. Twelve of them, like Valentin, are Republicans. None of them holds any significant leadership positions.
In an interview with Florida Politics, Valentin spelled out his concerns for the coronavirus crisis and his expectations for the future of health care in America.
Like most of the others Valentin has no interest in the kind of government approaches to health care that Democrats advocate.
He believes the public health strategy must be guided by education, targeted approaches to protecting “the most vulnerable” and allowing local governments to tailor approaches, rather than any across-the-board measures.
Voters, Valentin said, need to understand coronavirus data and that there are different groups affected differently, including the Hispanic community, which is disproportionately effected.
“It’s knowing the data out there, knowing that we cannot draw general expectations for everyone with the data and that we have to be very specific and very data driven,” Valentin said.
In Seminole and Orange, there has been a dramatic resurgence of the coronavirus in the past two or three weeks.
Valentin noted it’s centered largely on a younger demographic.
“We know that demographic by statistics does a lot better with the coronavirus. We need to be cautious to maintain that. So I think the strategy from the beginning in Florida to helping nursing homes and long-term care facilities, that’s important. We need to protect the most vulnerable,” he said.
“We do expect an increase,” he said. “Given the challenges, we were always prepared for this and that’s why we have the phased approaches.”
He advocates mask wearing, insisting that he was one of the first candidates to go on the record urging masks. But he stops short of calling for mandates, saying it is a matter of educating people.
“We can always educate more, and we can always explain to people why certain things are important … and not focus on the punitive aspect of it,” he said.
Valentin opposes the Affordable Care Act and offers strong warnings against socialized medicine. He charges that Obamacare has only driven up costs and that Republicans can and will develop a better plan, which he wants to be a part of.
“We all know it’s not affordable. And what it created was a monster of bureaucracy that is hurting patients and, quite frankly, has added a lot of red tape,” he said.
“I’ll always advocate for a free-market mentality. I think the government can be part of that free market but there have to be checks and balances,” he said. “I’m happy to help lead that charge.”
Valentin opposes the kinds of cost control measures that he considers “price fixing” in medicine.
Valentin also said he believes “absolutely” that President Donald Trump has provided the necessary leadership in addressing the coronavirus crisis.