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The veil has been lifted on who is behind the ubiquitous television ads in the Birmingham media market about surprise medical bills.

TeamHealth and Envision Healthcare, two companies backed by private equity firms, are among the biggest financiers of Doctor Patient Unity – the mysterious group whose ads urge viewers to contact Sen. Doug Jones and tell him to oppose so-called government rate setting, the New York Times reported Friday.

Ending surprise medical bills – such as when a person receives a mid-five-figure bill from an emergency room or air ambulance that doesn’t take their insurance – has bipartisan support in Congress but there is competing legislation to go about it. The bills can also be larger than anticipated if a hospital takes a patient’s insurance but not a doctor using that hospital.

Millions of dollars have been poured into the ads around the country, including Alabama, since late July. Both TeamHealth and Envision Healthcare have a presence in the state and the Birmingham metropolitan area, and tens of thousands of dollars are being spent so far this month in an attempt to persuade viewers. The airtime includes $50,000 paid to run the ad during this afternoon’s Alabama-South Carolina game to start SEC play, according to records with the Federal Communications Commission.

The nationwide ads all target senators up for reelection in 2020, including Jones. Besides the senator being in a competitive race, Jones is also on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which took up legislation on surprise medical bills July 8. Jones voted to send the Lower Health Care Costs Act to the full Senate in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 20-3.

Two days later, Doctor Patient Unity, which is against the bill, registered as a Delaware corporation. The organization contends the Senate bill benefits insurance companies and hurts hospitals and doctors.

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