|The ad's spokeswoman criticizes a bill that she claims will help insurance companies hurt patients.|
Kentuckians have been seeing lots of TV ads from a group that calls itself Doctor Patient Unity and says insurance companies are out to hurt patients by setting rates for health care. But that's a misleading description of what's going on, and the group "doesn’t list its members or disclose its funding," reports the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending.
The group, which was incorporated in Virginia on July 23, has bought at least $2.3 million in air time from late July through mid-August. Its ads are aimed at killing legislation written to reduce the amount and instances of surprise medical bills, that hit out-of-network patients "with exorbitant costs because the physician or hospital does not have a contract with the patient’s insurer," the center reports. "These unexpected bills, which can be hefty enough to bankrupt some Americans, often result from emergency room visits or ambulance rides," including expensive air ambulances.
|Sen. Mitch McConnell at the Fancy Farm|
Picnic (Photo by The Associated Press)
The bill "appears primed to pass the Senate," and the ads are aimed at mainly senators on the ballot in 2020, the center reports. In Kentucky, they mention Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who favors the bill, but also Sen. Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist who is up for re-election in 2022.
"Hospital and physician trade groups are opposed to the same kind of 'rate setting' mentioned in the ad as a giveaway to insurers, while insurers are eager to accuse providers of charging too much for emergency-room visits," the center notes. "Members of Congress had hoped to address surprise medical bills before the August recess but were unable to finish the job."
At issue is the proposed Lower Health Care Costs Act, a bipartisan bill that would establish the rates for reimbursement of providers for out-of-network emergency care. McConnell has said that the bill is a top priority for him.
"Doctor Patient Unity is effectively a counterbalance to the Coalition Against Surprise Medical Billing, a group publicly supported by some of the biggest insurance companies and groups, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and America’s Health Insurance Plans" insurers' main lobbying group, the center reports.
"In addition to a multi-million dollar TV ad campaign, Doctor Patient Unity has also spent tens of thousands on radio ads and Facebook ads. Their Facebook ads mention numerous House members from both parties in addition to senators, urging users to contact their congressperson to “side with patients, not insurance companies.”