Rep. Boehner (R-OH), the House Minority Leader, offered the Republican health care proposal as a substitute amendment for H.R. 3962, major health care legislation that the House was debating. The Republican proposal was much more limited in scope than H.R. 3962. Among other things it did not provide an opportunity for consumers to choose a “public option” insurance plan that would be operated by the federal government. The New York Times reported that, while the health care legislation to which it was offered as a substitute would provide new coverage for 36 million uninsured people, the provisions of the amendment would have only covered three million of the uninsured.
Supporters of the Boehner amendment said it would bring down the costs of private insurance premiums, which they argued was the chief concern of most Americans. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the amendment would have reduced the deficit by $68 billion over ten years. The CBO also estimated that the amendment would have reduced insurance premiums by between 3% and 10% over that period.
According to Rep. Camp (R-MI), who supported the amendment, it would have: Guaranteed access to affordable health care for those with preexisting conditions and prevented insurers from wrongly canceling a policy, while lowering costs for all Americans; reduced the number of “junk lawsuits” through medical liability reforms that would have lowered insurance premiums; encouraged small business health plans that would have allowed employers to pool together and offer health care at lower prices; encouraged innovative programs by rewarding states that reduced premiums and the number of uninsured; allowed Americans to buy insurance across state lines; promoted prevention and wellness by increasing the financial incentives by which employers reward employees who adopted healthier lifestyles; and allowed dependents to remain on their parents' policies up to the age of 25.
Speaking in favor of substituting his amendment for the legislation being debated, Rep. Boehner claimed that the approach he proposed was more fiscally responsible than the pending bill. He said “all of us know that our health care delivery system needs help (but) . . . The (Democratic) bill before us, in my view, is a big government takeover of our health care system . . . .”
Rep. Tonko (D-NY) summarized the Democratic opposition to the amendment. He said it “does not end the discrimination based on preexisting conditions; does not reduce the number of uninsured Americans; does not offer assistance to those struggling to afford health insurance; does not repeal the antitrust exemption for health insurers; and does not stop price gouging by insurance companies. Our bill does all these things and more.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 176-258. All one hundred and seventy-six “aye” votes were cast by Republicans. One other Republican joined all two hundred and fifty-seven Democrats and voted “nay”. As a result, the House rejected the Republican alternative to the major health legislation supported by the Democrats.