During a recent town hall in Massachusetts, an angry attendee asked Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) why she and other Members of Congress won’t enroll in a public plan. Tsongas responded, “People often say why don’t the American people have what those of us in Congress have.” As she tried to explain the substance of the health care reform bill, the town hall participants began screaming, refusing to allow her to speak.
As a member of Congress, Tsongas said she has a “tremendous array of choice” in health care options available to her. The audience yelled, “We want choice! We want choice!” To those who were willing to listen, Tsongas explained, “That is essentially what we are creating for the American people – we are creating greater choice.” Watch it:
As is often the case with these angry town hall participants, their fervent complaints are grounded in a shallow understanding of the facts. The truth is, Obama’s health care plan delivers for those who want more choice, like members of Congress have. The public option would insert public/private competition in a “market” that is currently dominated by a monopoly of health insurers who dictate the terms. As Republican congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) said:
One of our big frustrations with insurance companies is they control the marketplace, they control what’s done, a lot of times doctors not making the decisions here.
Obama is pushing to establish more health care choices for the consumer by creating a national health insurance exchange “where Americans can one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, and choose the plan that’s best for them, in the same way that Members of Congress and their families can” in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. “One of these options,” Obama said, “needs to be a public option that will give people a broader range of choices and inject competition into the health care market so that force waste out of the system and keep the insurance companies honest.”