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Seven Groups Urge Chairman Neal to End Surprise Medical Billing

WASHINGTON - As thousands of Americans find themselves facing COVID-19-related hospital bills, seven organizations sent a letter to Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA) urging him to address the injustice of surprise medical billing. As Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Neal has the power to quickly move legislation to end this cruelty of the American health care system.

Surprise bills – in which a patient receives charges for out-of-network services they couldn’t possibly have anticipated – cost Americans with employer-sponsored insurance $40 billion annually. About one in five emergency room visits, half of ground ambulance trips, and 70 percent of air transport trips have the potential to result in a surprise bill for patients, due to the high likelihood they will be out-of-network.

In 2019, bipartisan deal to end surprise medical billing was tanked by Chairman Neal at the last second. Instead, Neal and Ranking Member Kevin Brady introduced a bill that would have resulted in higher costs for patients and benefited private equity firms and insurance companies. Blackstone, a private equity firm now under scrutiny for sticking patients with surprise medical bills during the coronavirus pandemic, is Neal’s top 2020 campaign contributor.

“Congressman Neal needs to stop obstructing efforts to protect people from predatory behavior like surprise billing and start being part of the solution,” said Sarah Miller, Executive Director of the American Economic Liberties Project. “With cases of COVID-19 surging across the country, Neal should use his power as Chairman of House Ways and Means to immediately end surprise billing.”

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"Private equity is the driving force behind the epidemic of surprise billing. Their interest, money and influence, must not be allowed to  prevent common sense measures to stop them from gouging families," said Ricardo Valadez, Private Equity Campaigns Manager to the Americans for Financial Reform. "Congress should also take up the comprehensive stop wall street looting act to curb private equity abuses that harm workers, patients, communities, and the environment."

“It is no surprise that private equity firms are seeking to maintain the status quo so they can continue squeezing obscene profits out of the American people, even if it means driving them into medical debt or bankruptcy during a global pandemic,” said Eagan Kemp, Public Citizen’s health care policy advocate. “What remains frustrating is that this problem would already be solved if it weren’t for politicians taking private equity money and doing their bidding by blocking legislation that would ban surprise bills.”

"Richie Neal is one of the most powerful members of Congress, and it's clear he's using that power to benefit Wall Street fund managers instead of regular Americans," said Michael Kink, counsel to the Center for Popular Democracy. "It's time to put people over profits, end surprise billing, and crack down on private equity greed instead of enabling it."

A copy of the letter is available here. It was signed by: the American Economic Liberties Project, Americans for Financial Reform, Center for Popular Democracy, Private Equity Stakeholder Project, Public Citizen, Revolving Door Project, and Strong Economy for All.

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The American Economic Liberties Project launched in February 2020 to help translate the intellectual victories of the anti-monopoly movement into momentum towards concrete, wide-ranging policy changes that begin to address today’s crisis of concentrated economic power.

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