This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 29, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JAMIE COLBY, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: I'm Jamie Colby. Good evening, everyone. I'm in for Greta Van Susteren. It happened, the big unveiling of the health care bill, and it was a big unveiling, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership rolling out this 2,000-page bill. Speaker Pelosi calls the bill, complete with a government-run public option, an historic moment. House Minority Leader John Boehner -- he calls it a monstrosity. He went "On the Record."
COLBY: Let me start by asking you your impressions with this announcement today, the Speaker of the House saying that this is affordable health care for all Americans. Can America afford this?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R - OHIO, MINORITY LEADER: Speaker Pelosi's 1,990- page bill is going to raise the cost of health insurance for most American families. It's going to raise the cost of health insurance, new mandates, new taxes. I think it's just -- it's a monstrosity. And it's exactly what the American people have been telling the Congress for months that they don't want. They don't want government control of their health care, and that's exactly what this is.
COLBY: The public government-run health plan was mentioned. How much closer did we come today to a government-run health care plan, and how different would a Republican proposal have been?
BOEHNER: Well, if you look at their plan, it's not just the so-called public option that's there to compete with private insurance companies. You know, I used to run a small business. I can compete with people in the private sector, but I could never compete with the government. They have no cost to capital. They write all the rules. They set the premiums. And what's going to happen is they're going to drive every private health insurance company out of business.
Republicans have much better ideas, I think, that would take the current system and make it work better. And over the coming days, you're going to hear an awful lot about the specifics of what we would do to lower the cost of health insurance in America and really do this in a step-by- step gradual process.
COLBY: Steny Hoyer took the podium, as well, and said this is the most transparency he's seen in his 25-plus-year career. How transparent was it, and how much of this happened behind closed doors? Were there surprises for you today?
BOEHNER: The president promised that all this would be out in the open. The Speaker promised several years ago that no more writing bills in the back rooms in the dark of night. Yet this bill over the last several months has been put together in a dark room with a handful of people, and no one until today has gotten a chance to see it. It's 1,990 pages, Speaker Pelosi's health care bill is. It's going to take us a while to read it. So I'm hopeful that the American people will take the time to read this bill, as well, because it's nothing short of a complete government takeover of our health care system.
COLBY: The 1,900 or so pages will be available online for 72 hours. Was that a step in the right direction? Do you think that those who represent us will actually take the time to read it?
BOEHNER: Well, the bill is already online, and what the majority leader has committed to is that any amendment that they may want to make to this would be available for 72 hours online, as well. And so we don't expect to see this bill on the floor of the House until probably late next week. So there's going to be an awful lot of time for people to take a look at this and begin to understand it. And trust me, we're poring through this as we speak, trying to make sure that we understand every bit of this bill.
COLBY: I know you're concerned that there will be higher taxes as a result, that there could be less jobs. Can you explain those concepts and how you know at this point that's the case?
BOEHNER: Well, if you look at the employer mandate -- if you're an employer that has over a $500,000 payroll annually, you either have to provide health insurance under their proposal or you pay an 8 percent tax to the federal government. Many employers pay more than 8 percent to cover the cost of their employees' health insurance. Some of them -- all of them are going to have to have their plans re-reviewed by the federal government to make sure that they're, quote, "adequate."
Many employers are just going to give up and they're going to get rid of their employer-provided health care plans, pay the 8 percent tax and let their employees go fend out in the private market or in this so-called government option. But what will happen is we're raising the cost of employment at a time when unemployment is at near record highs. What we ought to be doing is helping employers bring back employees, get our economy going again. And here we are taxing employment, which means that we're going to end up with less numbers of employees in America.
COLBY: Speaker Pelosi says this will not add a dime to the deficit, this proposal that she presented today. Is she wrong?
BOEHNER: Nineteen hundred and ninety pages -- now, tell me -- tell me that this isn't going to add to the deficit. They have all these estimates that try to predict what's going to happen over the next 20 years or so with the cost of this plan. But this is the government making these estimates.
You know, I remember when Medicare was passed. I've looked at the estimates. The Medicare cost estimate for this year is one thirty-fifth of what it actually is. And so when the federal government gets involved, the American people know what to expect. It's going to cost a lot more. The federal government is going to end up making more decisions for the American people and get into the relationship between doctors and their patients. This is exactly what the American people are saying no to.
COLBY: So if you're sitting at home tonight and you saw this press conference today and this very optimistic Speaker of the House with Democrats behind them saying this is exactly what America needs, what do you want your constituents and the American people who have questions about it to do?
BOEHNER: Well, over the course of the summer, the American people spoke pretty loudly, and it's pretty clear that the Democrats here in Congress decided to ignore them. I think it's time for the American people to rise up, to have their voices heard once again. And whether it's letters, it's e-mails, it's visits to the members' offices, whether out in the district or here in Washington, it's time for the American people to put a stop to this. I've seen it happen time and time again. When the American people speak up, Washington listens.
COLBY: But if they do make that effort, Congressman...
BOEHNER: This is the time to speak up.
COLBY: ... Boehner, are they left without reform that's necessary? I thought it was interesting that 36 million people were referenced as being covered under this plan. Are 36 million Americans really the ones that should be getting the benefit of this health care reform, or are there people within that group that could have health care coverage now but are choosing not to have it?
BOEHNER: Most of the 36 million that they say they're going to cover already have access to some type of government program, or even their employer program, or have chosen just not to have health insurance. When you really boil this down, there are about seven or eight million people in America, those with pre-existing conditions, those who are what I would describe as the working poor, and some early retirees who have a difficult time getting health insurance. We can help those people get health insurance and still bring down the cost of health insurance for the 85 percent of Americans who have it and think they pay too much for it.
COLBY: What about seniors and Medicare benefits? How are they impacted by this proposal?
BOEHNER: Well, there are $500 million worth of Medicare cuts over the next 10 years. The most significant change is the $162 billion cut to Medicare Advantage. You know, I've got 27,000 Medicare enrollees in my district. And according to the Congressional Budget Office, about 80 percent of them would lose their coverage under this proposal. My seniors love their Medicare Advantage plans. And remember, the president said no one will be forced from the insurance policy they have today. If they like it, they can keep it.
COLBY: Congressman Boehner, thank you very much for being with us.
BOEHNER: Thank you.
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