Private equity-funded doctors coalition spends $4 million lobbying on 'surprise' medical billing

Private equity-funded doctors coalition spends $4 million lobbying on 'surprise' medical billing
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A coalition of doctors groups owned by private equity firms and investment groups spent more than $4 million lobbying Congress last quarter on legislation that would end "surprise" medical bills.

Physicians for Fair Coverage spent $4.1 million between July 1 and Sept. 30, when the debate over surprise medical bills was heating up in Congress, according to lobbying disclosure reports filed Monday.

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It's a record-high amount for the relatively new coalition, which spent less than $5,000 on lobbying during the same time period last year. The group spent $120,000 between April 1 and June 30 and $25,000 from Jan. 1 to March 31.

The lobbying campaign comes as Congress seeks to pass legislation banning providers from billing patients for costs not covered by insurance companies.

The practice can result in patients receiving costly bills, even if they seek care at in-network facilities but are unknowingly treated by doctors who don't participate in insurance networks and are employed by staffing firms. 

Physicians for Fair Coverage, a coalition of doctor staffing firms that includes ApolloMD, is fighting a House bill that would end that practice by setting the rates insurers would pay doctors. 

The coalition instead supports a bill, sponsored by Reps. Raul RuizRaul RuizPrivate equity-funded doctors coalition spends million lobbying on 'surprise' medical billing CBO: Fix backed by doctors for surprise medical bills would cost billions Democrat Raul Ruiz challenged by Republican with the same name in California race MORE (D-Calif.) and Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeMichelle Obama, Elizabeth Dole call for national unity at Heroes and History Makers event Private equity-funded doctors coalition spends million lobbying on 'surprise' medical billing Overnight Health Care — Presented by Better Medicare Alliance — Mystery vaping deaths in House spotlight | CBO says fix backed by doctors for surprise medical bills would cost billions | VA pressured to ease rules on medical marijuana MORE (R-Tenn.), both doctors, that would have an outside arbiter help set the payment rate. 

The doctor staffing companies that make up the coalition are funded by private equity groups such as ValorBridge, New Enterprise Associates, and Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe, according to Kaiser Health News.

“This filing reflects federal advocacy efforts, including direct lobbying and our national advertising campaigns on behalf of more than 25,000 doctors around the country who want to end surprise medical billing and continue providing high quality care to their patients," Megan Taylor, spokeswoman for Physicians for Fair Coverage, said in a statement Tuesday.

"Our effort is in response to the insurance companies pushing a benchmarking policy that threatens physician practices and would hurt patient access to care," she added.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee in September launched an investigation into the role private equity firms play in surprise billing, sending letters to three companies, including Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe.

"We are concerned about the increasing role that private equity firms appear to be playing in physician staffing in our nation’s hospitals, and the potential impact these firms are having on our rising health care costs," Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneDemocrats demand FCC act over leak of phone location data Democrats say they're waiting for nearly 50 requests for Trump info on science, environment Trump pressed to follow through on vaping crackdown MORE (D-N.J.) and Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenThe Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg looks to upend Democratic race The GOP should follow the example of Rep. Greg Walden Shimkus announces he will stick with plan to retire after reconsidering MORE (Ore.), the top Republican on the committee, wrote in the letters.

Updated on Tuesday at 4:35 p.m.