WASHINGTON — Days after President Trump’s inauguration, Rep. Mimi Walters of California vowed to protect patients with pre-existing conditions in any plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.
On Wednesday she cast a vote for a plan allows insurance companies in some cases to charge higher premiums to people with cancer, diabetes and other common preexisting conditions — even pregnancy.
It’s a moment that could have significant consequences for the Republican Party, particularly House lawmakers like Walters. Her Orange County district is among a couple dozen that have just become more competitive for Democrats due to a vote on a Republican health care plan passed without a single Democratic vote, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
There’s no way GOP leaders could have gotten the bill approved without the support of vulnerable lawmakers like Walters, who sits in a district that Democrat Hillary Clinton won by six points in November. Republicans say the plan will eventually lower health care premiums, even if it results in fewer Americans being insured than under the current health system.
“It’s called spending your political capital,” said David Wasserman, House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “Elections have consequences and majorities tend to use their majority to do things that are unpopular,” said Wasserman, who told USA TODAY he is changing ratings on close to two dozen races to reflect the increased political liability.
“It gives Democrats a really big vote to attack,” he said, citing members like Walters as well as fellow Californians Ed Royce and Dana Rohrabacher. Even before the vote, there were regular demonstrations outside all of their district offices.
In January, Walters tweeted that she is “committed to protecting patients w/ pre-existing conditions.”
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