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 RuizHouse Democrat who's a physician calls on Trump to 'man up' and wear mask In Trump response to coronavirus, left sees environmental injustice House coronavirus bill aims to prevent utility shutoffs MORE (D-Calif.) and Phil RoeDavid (Phil) Phillip RoeOvernight Defense: Trump plan to pull troops from Germany gets bipartisan pushback | Top GOP senator says it's time to look at changing Confederate-named bases | GOP divided over renaming Army bases US ill-prepared for coronavirus-fueled mental health crisis Tennessee lawmaker bought stocks in Zoom, sold cruise line shares before market plunge 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 PalloneDem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments Federal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems Overnight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments MORE (D-N.J.) and Rep. Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenRepublicans are working to close the digital divide Fauci gives Congress COVID-19 warning Fauci: We need more testing, not less MORE (Ore.), the top Republican on the committee, wrote in the letters.

Updated on Tuesday at 4:35 p.m.