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Congress Is Investigating Private Equity’s Role in Huge Medical Bills: Brainstorm Health

September 17, 2019, 9:38 PM UTC

Here’s a thing that happens in the world of American health care: You can show up to a hospital, have insurance, and then still unexpectedly be charged a bunch of money (potentially in the tens of thousands, if not significantly more) well after you’ve left the facilities.

This “surprise billing” practice isn’t a new phenomenon. It can occur, for example, if a patient goes to a hospital that’s within their insurance network but are treated by a doctor who isn’t. Given the disparate forces of the U.S. health system, this is the kind of situation that’s pretty hard to suss out—especially when you consider third party ambulances, doctors who aren’t within your network, or the basic reality that you can’t exactly choose which hospital or provider you go to you when you’re medically incapacitated.

The issue is coming to the forefront. And a number of prominent private equity firms—including KKR, Blackstone, and others—are about to face Congressional scrutiny over their potential roles in surprise medial billing.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone and ranking member Greg Walden (a bipartisan duo) are leading the charge.

Here’s what they had to say to the private equity firms of interest in a statement:

“We write to request information regarding… ownership, policies, and practices as it relates to third-party medical providers. We are particularly interested in your firm’s relationship with any physician staffing companies and emergency transportation companies,” they wrote.  

“In recent years, the Committee has heard countless heart-wrenching stories from insured individuals who have received thousands of dollars in medical bills after inadvertently receiving care from out-of-network providers.”

A Blackstone spokesperson responded in an emailed statement: “Blackstone’s portfolio company TeamHealth fully supports legislation to end surprise medical bills through an approach called independent arbitration that has proven successful in New York and Texas. TeamHealth also has a long-standing policy against balance billing its patients. We look forward to responding to this letter and outlining the company’s approach.”

Much more on this soon. Read on for the day’s news.

Updated to include a statement from Blackstone.

Sy Mukherjee, @the_sy_guy, sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

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