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Peters presses private equity on ER safety

Sen. Gary Peters

Sen. Gary Peters. Photo: Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters is weighing in on private equity ownership in health care, and how it could be affecting emergency care.

Why it matters: Peters says emergency room doctors across the country have raised alarms to his staff about how private-equity owned physician staffing companies and hospitals could be jeopardizing patient safety.

Driving the news: Peters has sent letters to private equity-connected firms that were at the center of the lengthy debate over surprise billing, including Blackstone-owned TeamHealth and Envision Healthcare, previously owned by KKR.

  • Peters wrote that in some cases "physicians reportedly have been responsible for over 20 beds at a given time and patients routinely had a 16-hour wait time in the emergency department."
  • "I am concerned companies that previously engaged in surprise billing may now consider other cost cutting efforts that more directly risk negatively impacting patient safety and care," Peters wrote.
  • Other companies he sent inquiries to include Apollo Global Management, US Acute Care Solutions and Lifepoint Health.

The big picture: Peters' panel is increasingly wading into health care, also advancing a measure aimed at cutting off U.S. funds for certain Chinese biotech companies.

  • He said cost-saving measures in emergency care could put U.S. emergency preparedness at risk.

The other side: TeamHealth said in a statement: "We look forward to engaging with the committee and demonstrating our uncompromised commitment to our clinicians and communities."

  • US Acute Care Solutions said it will "gladly participate in [the] committee's work as USACS is confident our physician-owned model of care is in the best interests of patients, physicians and hospitals."
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