To the editor:
We can all thank our lucky stars for both the New York Times’ investigative reporting team and New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
The source of the onslaught of TV commercials that anyone watching the tube regularly has been inundated with since August, depicting EMTs arriving with their gurney-bound patient to an empty and darkened hospital, was unearthed last Friday (the 13th, aptly enough).
The “dark money” culprit is a shadow organization called Doctor Patient Unity, a typically sanguine nomenclature for what in reality is an organization of Wall Street private equity firms like TeamHealth and Envision Healthcare stocked with millionaires and billionaires who have pooled their resources to push an anti-patient agenda.
Give the Times’ version of the Boston Globe’s “Spotlight Team” an enormous amount of credit for digging Doctor Patient Unity out from the layers of artifice, finding out the group’s main backers, and disseminating the information.
So what’s the agenda? It’s simple — the increasing number of surprise medical bills that many patients are receiving after completed procedures (surgeries, in-hospital medical care, etc.) that, lo and behold, aren’t covered by the patient’s insurance.
This is happening more and more, particularly if another out-of-network doctor visits the case, even short-term, and offers assistance or a consult. This ends up as a new bill or bills that the patient receives for services that they thought were insurance-covered, oftentimes entailing thousands of dollars more tacked onto the patient’s financial burden.
This, of course, is the scenario that these Wall Street-backed hospitals and doctors want to keep intact, as they continue to reap huge profits off properly covered individuals with off-the-charts, bottom-line medical bill totals that can economically ruin the patient and his/her family.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s aberrant 2010 Citizens United decision is the reason why Doctor Patient Unity flew under the radar so easily. They don’t have to disclose their backers and can spend unlimited millions of dollars on those disingenuous TV ads and flyers, trying to convince Americans that doctors will lose their jobs, hospitals will close, and Armageddon will come crashing down if we don’t allow hospitals to continue their billing practices.
These ads began on Texas television first but have spread like wildfire nationally, and are now here in the Granite State.
Enter Sen. Shaheen. She has introduced a new bill, Democracy For All, that would add a Constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United and cut down the ridiculous amounts of political spending, without even having to divulge the clandestine donor identities, that our nation has been bombarded with since that extremely-misguided decision.
Our political campaign finance system is broken and has to be reformed by Congress, preferably before November 2020.
The good news about Doctor Patient Unity’s “surprise bill syndrome” is the rare example of bipartisanship in Washington to eliminate it. Both the House and Senate have bills pending to address the problem, a problem exacerbated by all the false advertising we’ve endured over the last two months, on TV and in our mailboxes.
Don’t be fooled. And let’s get behind Sen. Shaheen’s initiative that will prevent the Citizens United-enabled, endless amount of money from secreted contributors that organizations like Doctor Patient Unity can spend to confuse such an important issue.