Congress is getting close to advancing one of the few significant bipartisan reforms to the health care system still on the docket: legislation to curb the practice of “surprise medical billing.”
Naturally, that progress has sparked a last-ditch, dark money blitz bent on sinking these relatively modest bills, which aim to make it harder for unsuspecting patients to get hit with exorbitant bills if they see the wrong doctor in an emergency situation.
A group called “Doctor Patient Unity,” formed in June, has bankrolled a sweeping campaign of radio and television ads to pressure senators up for re-election in 2020 to oppose proposals to reform surprise medical billing.
Now, the dark money group is going after key lawmakers with direct appeals to their constituents. A mailer paid for by Doctor Patient Unity, obtained by The Daily Beast, urges Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-MI) constituents to call his office and tell him to “say no to rate-setting” and “to put patients first.”
“They’re throwing the full kitchen sink at our efforts here and seeing what will stick,” said a congressional aide, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter candidly. “It’s unclear whether or not members are seeing a huge influx of constituent calls, but it’s obvious what they’re trying to do here, which is to back members off this proposal.”
Those hospitals and doctors have led the charge in publicly opposing the changes Congress is mulling. But as for who exactly is pouring money into the mailers and TV ads, Doctor Patient Unity appears to have taken pains to conceal the identities of the individuals or organizations running and financing the effort. Public records provide some clues, however. Incorporation documents on file in Virginia list an address in the town of Warrenton that is shared by the prominent Republican law firm Holtzman Vogel Josefiak Torchinsky.
The group’s treasurer, according to filings with the FCC, is a woman named Janna Rutland. She serves as treasurer for a handful of other political and policy organizations, and appears to be an employee of the GOP consulting firm Crosby Ottenhoff, which counts a number of high-profile Republican candidates and party organs among its clients.
Emergency, anesthesiology, and neonatal intensive care practices are prime targets for private equity buys because the are typically involve people who are too desperate to do the deep digging required to avoid outrageous charging, which gives them almost unlimited pricing power.
Once again, there is nothing that Wall Street finance cannot get worse.