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House Ways and Means Among Panels Working on Health Reform Alternatives

The House Ways and Means Committee announced Thursday that its first hearing will be next Wednesday, one day after President Obama’s State of the Union address. Among other tasks, Ways and Means is one of the committees charged with GOP-led efforts to offer a replacement for the health care reform bill signed last year.

Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said the hearing will examine the full impact of what the Democratic-supported health care law is and how it impacts taxes. Camp appeared at a news conference with the other three committee chairmen who have jurisdiction over a possible dismantling the law: Michigan Rep. Fred Upton of Energy and Commerce; Minnesota Rep. John Kline of Education and Labor and Texas Rep. Lamar Smith of Judiciary.

All said that in each of their respective areas, the intention is to replace what they refer to as “Obamacare” with something better.

“Our goal is to produce legislation that is designed to bring down health care costs, expand access to coverage and maintaining the doctor-patient relationships,” Upton said. “We’ll be looking at some of the law’s harsh mandates” and “we intend to focus on a provision that would allow consumers to purchase insurance across state lines.”

“Why can you buy car insurance across state lines and you can’t do that for health insurance? We want to change that,” Upton said.

Camp said they are planting the seeds of cultivating a health care solution that will let Americans chose the health care plan they want without increasing the scope and size of the federal government. “Insuring more people is a goal, but we just want a different approach to health care,” Camp said. “What we have now is government-centered. We want it patient-centered. The tree branch is rotten and should be cut down, but if we can’t do all at once. We’ll prune it branch by branch,” he explained.

All committee chairs said they welcomed testimony from both sides of the aisle and that any proposed amendment or change that is bipartisan in nature would receive first priority.

No other dates for hearings were announced, but committee chairs said they would waste no time in tackling the issue and expect movement on the legislation in the coming weeks.