GOP senators work behind closed doors to repeal health care law

Senate Republicans are facing increasing criticism for ducking public scrutiny as they craft legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act with little input from outside experts, patients, physicians and others most affected by health care legislation.

The GOP’s secretive process marks a sharp departure from the traditional way the Senate has developed large, complex bills, which are often debated for years with multiple committee hearings to ensure broad input and careful analysis.

The closed-door approach, which is even more opaque than the process used earlier this year in the House, is all the more remarkable given the bill’s likely effect on tens of millions of Americans, many of whom could see their health insurance protections substantially scaled back or eliminated altogether.

“It is deeply disturbing,” said Erika Sward, assistant vice president of the American Lung Association. “Patients groups like ours need to make sure that our patients’ needs for health care will be met. … We can’t do that if we can’t see what is being proposed.”

The lung association is among 120 patient groups that this week sent a letter to senior Republican senators expressing deep concerns about GOP proposals to fundamentally restructure Medicaid, which provides health coverage to more than 70 million poor Americans.

Although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has indicated he wants to vote on a bill in the next two weeks, Senate Republicans thus far haven’t disclosed details of their Medicaid plans, or any other part of their health care legislation.

The Affordable Care Act repeal bill passed by the House in May, which has helped guide the Senate discussions, would slash federal health care assistance to low- and moderate-income Americans by nearly $1 trillion and increase the number of uninsured by 23 million over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol this week,…

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