Lindsey Graham, Bill Cassidy, Ron Johnson, Dean Heller

From left, Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hold a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, to unveil legislation to reform health care. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) ORG XMIT: DCAH124

Andrew Harnik

Bill Cassidy was first elected to Congress in 2009 and is now Louisiana's senior senator.

But this was the week he really arrived on the national scene. While state governors and professional organizations were ganging up against him, late-show host Jimmy Kimmel denounced him as a liar on national television. Most politicians go a lifetime without attracting so much attention.

Cassidy owes it all to Obamacare, since his is the plan that offers the Republicans what may be their last chance to repeal and replace it. The big question about all such plans is how many more millions would be left without health insurance, and Cassidy's lack of candor on that score ensured opposition would reach fever pitch.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders touts the socialized medicine that is anathema in the land of the free but has just been found in yet another study to provide coverage that is vastly superior and more cost-effective than the American system. Of course, you don't believe that because it is an article of faith here that American health leads the world while the British, for example, die of neglect in Victorian squalor.

A different picture emerges if you read the British press. One columnist recently warned readers not to overdo their understandable pride in the National Health Service. Sure it provides a level of care unavailable in America, they were cautioned, but that's just too easy.

The latest think-tank report, from the Commonwealth Fund in New York, ranks America last of 11 countries in health care, although we invest a higher percentage of our GDP than any other country.

The American system ranks low because, even after Obamacare, it leaves vast numbers out in the cold. If you want universal coverage, Sanders' Medicare For All may be the only answer. It does not appear to be what America wants, of course, and it takes an ancient and avowed socialist in Vermont to push the idea.

This is doubtless so because, whatever the shortcomings of the American system, they are beyond the experience of people with jobs and insurance. If you want top-notch physicians, all the latest medical gizmos and plush hospital accommodations, it is still advisable to be a well-heeled American.

You don't need to be as well-heeled as Kimmel, who could certainly have afforded to pay from his own pocket when his new-born son needed open-heart surgery. But no parent would have to do so under his healthcare plan, Cassidy assured Kimmel on his show, because “pre-existing conditions”' would be covered. Not so, Kimmel declared last week. Cassidy “lied right to my face.”

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Here is what, according to Kimmel, Cassidy promised on the earlier show — “coverage for all; no discrimination based on pre-existing conditions; lower premiums for middle-class families and no lifetime caps.”

It is the same old empty promise from Republicans bent on dismantling Obamacare — we'll give you better insurance at cheaper rates. You'd have to be an idiot to believe that. If coverage costs less, insurance companies will always give you less of it. Kimmel furiously pointed out that the plan Cassidy has come up with in cahoots with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina offers none of the promised benefits, but nobody should be surprised. The free market is not equipped to deliver entitlements.

The Cassidy plan seeks to save money by reversing the Medicaid expansion embraced by many states under Obamacare, which can only mean that millions of people who now have insurance will lose it.

That has impelled a bipartisan group of 10 governors, including our own John Bel Edwards, to send a letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell urging rejection of the Cassidy plan. The governors would prefer to see the Senate persevere with efforts to reduce and stabilize insurance premiums.

Cassidy likes to accuse critics of his plan as pushing a left-wing agenda, the standard Republican riposte. His opponents include such notorious hotbeds of socialist conspiracy as the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the AARP and various health care agencies in Louisiana.

They are all alarmed at the prospect of so many American cut off from health care. Let us, by all means, replace Obamacare, but not until we are sure we have found something better. Cassidy would really make his mark if he could bring that off.

Email James Gill at jgill@theadvocate.com.