Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Joe Wilson asks: "If you like public option so much, why don't YOU get it??"

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), the Congressman who in late September cried out "You lie!" during President Barack Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, has come up with a brilliant idea in order to make Democrats look stupid on health care reform.

If they want to make a public option available to the American people, Wilson argues, then they should back it up by being required to have it, too.

"If this public option is so good, then why don't the congressmen take the plan?" Wilson stated, repeating a line that he says was asked of him several times by his constituents.

It's great political maneuvering by Republicans: if Democrats want a public option, their argument goes, then they should have to give up the insurance they have now through their employer (the federal government); if they aren't willing to do that, then the American people will undoubtedly have some misgivings about the public option plan.

There's only one problem with Wilson's proposal: it assumes members of Congress deserve to have the same health insurance that the American people have. Flip that around, and it means the American people are also deserving to have the same insurance as members of Congress.

Yet, you don't see Wilson or his conservative allies calling for all Americans to have their (the representatives') same health care plan. If Joe Wilson were really serious about his demand for Democrats in Congress, he should also consider buying his own insurance plan, the way many Americans have to do today. If he's lucky, maybe the American public would let him and his cohorts pay the average amount for an employer-based insurance plan for a family of four -- more than $3,500 per year, an increase of 327 percent over the last decade.

Of course, many more Americans might want members of Congress who are supporting Wilson's proposal to try paying for insurance themselves, without the employer-based number. After all, many employers are now dropping their workers from their plans. The average cost: above $5,500 (in 2005).

Still others might want Congress -- under the auspices of the Wilson plan, once again -- to go without health insurance of any kind, the way one out of every seven Americans must live today. Paying out of their own pockets, members of Congress would be forced to pay more than $16,000 per year (the average cost of health care coverage for a family of four). Or, if they're like real Americans struggling with health care problems, they might not take themselves to the doctors at all, hoping for the best when their children get the cold, praying that it isn't something more complicated than the "sniffles."

Joe Wilson shouldn't be asking supporters of health care, "Why won't YOU get the public option?" He should be asking his own party, "Why aren't we doing MORE to give Americans the opportunity to have health care coverage, the way WE have it?" If it's good enough for Congress, then surely it's good enough for America.

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