A public (or "government-run") healthcare option for Americans would function similarly to the way the post office does, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) suggested Tuesday night.

Jackson, in an appearance on CNN, said that just as the government-run post office keeps private mail carriers honest in their prices, so would the public option keep insurers honest.

"Look at it this way: There's Federal Express, there's UPS, and there's DHL," Jackson told CNN host Larry King. "The public option is a stamp; it's email. And because of the email system, because of the post office, it keeps DHL from charging $100 for an overnight letter, or UPS from charging $100 for an overnight letter."

The public option, in that sense, is a "market-based" plan, Jackson asserted.

Of course, that defense comes several days after President Obama ribbed the post office during one of his town hall meetings pushing for healthcare, which postal unions criticized.

"I mean, if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are," Obama said at his New Hampshire town hall, to point out that a public postal option hadn't forced out private companies.

"It's the post office that's always having problems," Obama added.

Jackson is one of several dozen liberal members of Congress who are demanding that the president commit to passing healthcare reform with a public option. He said any bill otherwise might be dead on arrival in the House.

"160 members of Congress already signed a letter indicating that without a strong public option, from their perspective -- including my signature -- that this bill is a non-starter," Jackson said.

The idea that 47 million Americans have no form of health insurance whatsoever and the idea that we would create a public option to help bring down costs is something that should be broadly accepted by the American people.