As the opioid epidemic caused pain and hardship across the nation, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) turned her back on those struggling through this crisis. Walters championed a health care bill that would “place coverage out of reach and weaken patient protections for millions struggling with addiction,” according to former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
Walters was on the forefront of the battle to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. Despite the massive success of President Obama’s signature health care law — the number of uninsured has dropped by 20 million people since the ACA was signed into law — Walters, in the spring of 2017, voted with Paul Ryan and most other Republicans for a repeal bill. The GOP health care plan would have forced roughly 24 million people to lose health insurance, and was a disaster for those fighting opioid addiction.
Murthy explains why the Walters-backed Republican health care repeal plan, the AHCA, was such a disaster:
Before the ACA, a third of those covered in the individual market were not covered for [substance abuse] disorders. People would often find out too late that their plans did not pay for the care they needed. The ACA changed this by requiring that all insurance plans cover addiction treatment as an essential health benefit. Unfortunately, the AHCA would once again allow insurance companies to opt out of providing this treatment. This means that even if people with substance use disorders have insurance coverage, they could face thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for treatment, putting it out of reach for many.
One study shows provisions in the Walters-backed bill could cost patients an additional $14,000 in out-of-pocket costs for a treatment facility. Already, the charges for a hospital stay for opioid-related visits averages to more than $33,000 in Orange County.
Opioid-related visits to emergency medical care centers in Orange County has more than doubled since 2005. And sadly, between 2011 and 2015, 70 percent of overdose deaths investigated by the Orange County Sheriff-Coroner involved opioids.
For years, Walters sent out press releases touting her commitment to combating the opioid epidemic. In a March 2018 statement released after the most recent Congressional funding bill, Walters once again tried to paint herself as a champion in the fight against opioid addiction.
Yet less than a year ago, in one of the most consequential votes of her short career, Walters willfully abandoned those suffering in Orange County and around the nation. In the midst of the opioid crisis, Walters voted to make it harder, if not fiscally impossible, for people to receive treatment for opioid addiction.
“Millions of Americans with drug use disorders stand to suffer under the bill — in the middle of the deadliest drug crisis in US history,” notes Vox.
If not for opposition in the Senate, Walters would have crippled the ability of countless Americans to seek the help they needed.
Flashy press releases and poll-tested statements can’t erase Walters’ voting record.