With millions of Americans still facing the threat of bankrupting surprise medical bills, Bloomberg profiles the onslaught of private equity money in 2019 that stalled the hope of a solution for consumers. The article notes that, “No advocacy group spent more than Doctor Patient Unity [front group backed by Envision and TeamHealth] on a single issue in 2019.”
These firms and out-of-network providers rallied against the best solution to fix surprise billing – fair, market-based benchmark rates. It’s time for Congress to stop bailing out private equity and put patients first.
- “Confronted with the rare prospect of defeat on Capitol Hill, private equity titans Blackstone Group Inc. and KKR & Co. unleashed a national advertising blitz last year against legislation that threatened their investments in health-care companies valued at $16 billion.”
- “The $53.8 million campaign sought to derail a crackdown on surprise medical billing, in which patients are unexpectedly hit with exorbitant charges, often following visits to emergency rooms. Television ads depicted patients in trauma being denied care and urged viewers to contact lawmakers, dozens of whom were identified by name.”
- “The onslaught ended up generating a bi-partisan backlash, and a rebuke from President Donald Trump’s White House, in large part because Blackstone and KKR didn’t reveal that medical-staffing companies they owned were bankrolling the effort.”
- “‘It was a dumb strategy,’ said Representative Greg Walden, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating Blackstone and KKR’s investments in medical-staffing companies. ‘All it’s done is driven a bunch of us to double down.’”
- “The bill they are fighting would effectively cap how much medical-staffing firms, which outsource doctors to hospitals, can charge patients. Blackstone completed an acquisition of TeamHealth in 2017, valuing the company at $6.1 billion. KKR bought Envision Healthcare, valued at $9.9 billion, a year later.”
- “In December, lawmakers tried to include a measure on surprise-medical billing in year-end legislation funding the federal government but couldn’t work out their differences. Key negotiators in the House and Senate have now set a deadline of May 2020 to strike a deal, at which point they intend to include a proposal in negotiations to extend funding for expiring health-care programs.
- “TeamHealth and Envision influenced the debate via a front group called Doctor Patient Unity. One ominous ad showed an ambulance arriving at a hospital with a dark and empty emergency room — all because of ‘government rate setting.’”
- “‘The ads are disgusting and are only meant to take advantage of vulnerable Americans,’ White House domestic policy adviser Joe Grogan, a former pharmaceutical industry lobbyist, said in a statement. ‘The administration remains undeterred as we meet with members of both parties to find a bi-partisan solution to end crushing surprise medical bills.’”
- “No advocacy group spent more than Doctor Patient Unity on a single issue in 2019, according to Advertising Analytics, which tracks political ads.”
- “‘They’ve made a lot of enemies,’ Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a New Hampshire Democrat, said in an interview. ‘They deliberately misled the American public.’”
- “‘I’m going to do everything I can to keep surprise medical billing on the front burner,’ retiring Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said in an interview. ‘It’s a bill that almost everyone wants passed except a handful of people, including private equity firms that benefit from it.’”
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