Below is an excerpt from WMUR

Shaheen says she ‘will not be intimidated’ by TV, mail ads opposing ban on surprise medical billing 

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said Friday she “will not be intimidated” by a secretive group airing ads on television in New Hampshire and across the country calling on members of Congress to oppose pending legislation to reform the practice of surprise medical billing.

Shaheen’s comments came after the New York Times exposed the chief funders behind a group calling itself Doctor Patient Unity as TeamHealth and EnvisionHealthcare, described by the Times as private equity-backed companies that own physician practices to staff emergency rooms around the country.

The physicians are deployed to hospital emergency rooms during medical personnel shortages. When the physicians are not covered by patients’ insurers and are “out of network,” the patients are often charged exorbitant rates.

According to the Times, TeamHealth was acquired by the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, for $6.1 billion, in 2016. In a New Hampshire connection, in April of this year, former New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte was announced as a new member of Blackstone’s board of directors.

Another major private equity group, KKR, acquired EnvisionHealthcare for $9.9 billion in the fall of last year.

Bills pending in Congress would cap the amount of money physicians and hospitals can charge patients for out-of-network providers or services. One bill was introduced by Sen. Maggie Hassan in October 2018, although her bill was described by the Times as “more doctor-friendly,” which earned her an ad by Doctor Patient Unity thanking her.

FCC records show Doctor Patient Unity has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the ads on WMUR, and the Times reported the group has spent a total of $28 million on ads acvross the country.

The ads say the bills they are targeting would result in “government rate-setting,” which would lead to “doctor shortages, hospital closures” and would “hurt those who really matter — patients, us.”

The senators, including Shaheen, have also been targeted in direct mail pieces urging votes to tell the senators “to put patients first. Say no to rate setting by big insurance companies.

Like all dark money groups, Doctor Patient Unity is not required by federal law to disclose the names of its donors.

“This is an example of what happens when voters can’t tell who’s paying for ads because they’re funded by dark money,” Shaheen said in a statement issued by her office after the Times story appeared Friday.

“It causes a lot of confusion, but I trust that most Granite Staters recognize this for what it is: fear mongering,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen continued: “It’s unfortunate that the voices of Granite Staters who are struggling to pay surprise medical bills can be drowned out by wealthy special interests that have a vested interest in putting profits over patients. But I don’t care how many ads they run, how many mailers they send or how much dark money they spend. I’m not intimidated and am adamant that tackling surprise billing must remain at the top of Congress’s to-do list.”

Hassan’s office also criticized the group, telling the Times the ads are “deeply harmful to our efforts to pass bipartisan legislation to end the outrageous practice of surprise medical billing.”

Read the full story at WMUR.