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If Republicans Think Being Uninsured Is No Big Deal...

Jonathan Oberlander, one of the nation's leading experts on health care policy, is a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of The Political Life of Medicare. He is an occasional contributor to The Treatment.

Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown reports that Congressional Republicans opposed to creating a new public insurance option have a novel idea. Republican John Fleming of Louisiana is sponsoring a House resolution urging Democrats who vote for the public plan to give up their current insurance coverage--through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP)--and join the new public  program. According to Politico, John McCain and Tom Coburn are preparing similar amendments in the Senate "that would require members--and maybe even their staffs--to sign up for the public option."  

This is, of course, a rather lame idea: the point of creating a public plan is to make it an option that exists alongside private insurance. This is about expanding choice in health insurance coverage. Nobody would be forced to join the public option.

Still if we want members of Congress to put their money--and health insurance choices--where their mouths are, I have a better (if not 100 percent original) idea.   

Republicans who oppose universal health insurance should immediately relinquish their federal health insurance. After all, these members of Congress have long enjoyed taxpayer-subsidized health insurance, a privilege that they apparently believe tens of millions of working, uninsured Americans and their families don't deserve. 

Congressman Fleming of Louisiana says that "Congress should lead by example."

I agree.

If Republicans don't think being uninsured is a big deal, then they should go right ahead and try it out.

And if they really believe a public plan is such a bad option, maybe they can persuade their parents to give up Medicare too.

--Jonathan Oberlander