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Arizona congressman calls for GOP Senate health care plan transparency

FILE - In this April 25, 2017, file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington. A key part of House Republicans' plan to overhaul the way corporations pay taxes is on life support, leaving lawmakers scrambling to save one of President Donald Trump's biggest priorities and increasing the chances the GOP will simply pass a tax cut instead of overhauling the tax code. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

PHOENIX — An Arizona congressman has contributed to the cries of Democrats for more transparency from Senate Republicans on their health care plan, which is shrouded in secrecy.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran said at a press conference Monday he plans to draft a letter to his Senate counterparts to demand more clarity on the American Health Care Act.

“Even Republican senators are concerned about the lack of transparency and the direction this bill is going,” he said.

O’Halleran said the health care bill process should be similar to another issue looming over Washington, D.C.: tax reform.

“I was just at a meeting the other day on tax reform with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” he said. “They made it very clear any tax reform bill needs to be bipartisan. We need to have it well-vetted throughout the public and the business community. That’s the only way we’re assured of a good bill with long-term stability.

“That’s the same process that needs to be done within health care.”

O’Halleran said the closed-door approach to health care is leaving lawmakers with questions.

“We don’t know too much about what’s going to come out of the Senate,” he said. “However, we do know veterans will not get their tax credits if the AHCA goes through.”

The congressman said getting input from the public and businesses could help craft a better health care bill.

“I’ve long advocated a business approach,” he said. “Identify what these cost drivers are, identify each and every cost driver from the perspective of their impact, and how we can work with those industries, whether it’s prescription drugs or the healthcare industry in general.”

The Congressional Budget Office said at least 23 million more people would be uninsured if the Senate version of the American Health Care Act passes. O’Halleran said he had heard the same thing and, if Medicaid expansion were ended, it would be a disaster for Arizona.

“There’s one estimate that Arizona would have to pick up, eventually, $3 billion in costs on health care, just because of this bill,” he said.