Editorial: 'Obamacare sucks'? No, what really sucks is ..._lowres

At a 2017 town hall in Metairie, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy attempted to explain his proposed alternative to the Affordable Care Act, which he called the "Patient Freedom Act." This week, he expressed disappointment with the GOP's proposed American Health Care Act, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 14 million next year.

Thankfully for millions of people who currently benefit from the law, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s efforts to undo the Affordable Care Act two years ago faltered. So for now, people with pre-existing conditions are still guaranteed coverage at general market rates, pregnancy and mental health and hospitalization are required to be included in most plans, and the half million or so Louisianans on Medicaid expansion have access to preventive care and more expensive follow-up services.

Equally good news is that Cassidy, a physician by trade, is focusing these days on solving one of the health care system's many lingering shortcomings. He’s working to address a frustrating problem that has been amply documented by the press recently: Patients blindsided when they receive bills for using out-of-network services even if they’re at an in-network hospital.

Cassidy, others, unveil legislation aimed at ending 'surprise medical bills'

Cassidy has joined with fellow Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, a key opponent of Cassidy’s Obamacare repeal efforts, as well as Democrats Michael Bennet of Colorado and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire to back the STOP Surprise Bills Act. President Donald Trump gave the effort a recent plug at the White House, which bodes well for its prospects.

“Patients should be the reason for the care, not an excuse for the bill,” Cassidy argued at a news conference. “The patient should be held harmless.”

And Cassidy should learn a lesson from the bipartisan coalition he’s been able to put together behind the issue: That it’s both better, and far more popular, to fix problems for patients rather than cause new ones.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.