Don't say it's a revolution.
The health care legislation winding its way through Congress and being pushed by President Obama isn't a world-changer, U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, D-Glens Falls, told The Post-Star editorial board on Wednesday.
Still, it is understandable that the complicated and costly proposal to expand health insurance to cover millions more people has raised fears, he said.
"A lot of people are very nervous about change to the health care system. Everybody interacts with the health care system in some way and they all are nervous about it," Murphy said. "A lot of them are frustrated with something but at the same time they're not saying they want anything to change in their life. They get frustrated with the billing process or the approval process. But hey, they're frustrated with it, but they don't really want it to change."
Around the country, the legislation has stoked heated protests and debates at town hall meetings with members of Congress.
Since returning from Washington earlier this summer for the August recess, federal representatives have been fielding questions from often skeptical - if not emotional - protestors wary of increased federal spending and the government's expanding role in their lives.
Murphy said the venues where he has spoken recently have hosted spirited, but respectful, debates on the health care issue.
"I think they've all been respectful, thoughtful, wide disagreement on issues and kind of a general concern and frustration with the current state of the health care system," Murphy said. "It's what makes my job really fascinating. Every once in a while people get a little riled up. It's nice to get people to get good dialogue."
The proposal could add a "public option" to compete with existing health insurance plans and allow the uninsured to enter into a national pool of health insurance.
The proposal is also considered expensive. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that nearly 100 million people could be enrolled in the public option within three years.
The White House has suggested slashing more than $150 billion from the Medicare Advantage program (a private option for people who qualify for Medicare) to pay for at least a portion of the costs.
At the same time, opponents of the plan point to so-called "death panels" which, according to the legislation, don't exist.
"A whole lot of things are scaring people," Murphy said. "The goal is to introduce competition - at least that's my reading of the bill."
Murphy said having more people insured would cut down on inefficiencies in the health care system.
"Getting more people into the system - we've got a large number of people not in the system," he said. "One of the reasons why costs are so high for us that have insurance plans is because of uncompensated care."
But he admitted the savings from making the system more efficient wouldn't be substantial.
"If everyone is covered it takes away the whole uncompensated care morass," he said. "It's not fundamental savings. It's mostly moving around but it makes it more efficient, but not massive savings."
He also criticized the existing legislative proposals for not corralling state mandates added on top of a national insurance pool.
"What the bill does poorly is that it allows state mandates to come on top of this and mess up this kind of pool," he said. "It's very frustrating to me and something I'd like to change."
Despite polls showing a majority of Americans are skeptical about the cost and efficiency of a government insurance program, Murphy said he expects Congress to vote on health care reform of some sort.
"Democrats and Republicans identify a lot of the same problems," he said. "What we end up with is to be determined, but I think we will end up with something."