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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Ending surprise medical bills inspires bipartisan kumbaya in a way nearly unheard of these days, and yet a brutal lobbying and public relations blitz by doctor and hospital groups is threatening to kill the entire effort.

Driving the news: Provider-backed groups are spending millions of dollars to sway lawmakers and the public opinion against Congress's efforts to ban surprise billing, according to a handful of recent reports.

Details:

  • A dark money group called Doctor Patient Unity has spent more than $13 million on advertising in states where senators are up for re-election, Bloomberg Government reported on Monday — the most expensive campaign on any congressional health care topic this year.
  • Modern Healthcare's Susannah Luthi reported yesterday that some congressional staffers worry that the provider onslaught will cause the entire surprise billing effort to collapse. The staffers say that may be what the groups want; providers insist this isn't the case.
  • My colleague Bob Herman reported last week that physician outsourcing companies — which are often the source of surprise medical bills — and private equity firms have flooded Congress with lobbyists.

The other side: Other congressional aides are less worried about the surprise billing effort being killed.

  • “If anything, [providers'] tactics are backfiring. Compassion is winning. Members are more concerned for patients than a profit fight between industries," a GOP aide familiar with the effort told me.
  • Instead, “members are beginning to question private equity’s interest in this. What is it they’re willing to invest $13 million to save and why are they hiding behind dark money?”

Go deeper

13 mins ago - Health

The floodgates have opened for vaccine mandates

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

State governments, private businesses and even part of the federal government are suddenly embracing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for their employees.

Why it matters: Vaccine mandates have been relatively uncommon in the U.S. But with vaccination rates stagnating and the Delta variant driving yet another wave of cases, there's been a new groundswell of support for such requirements.

Ina Fried, author of Login
13 mins ago - Sports

Axios at the Olympics: Softball on the brink

Cat Osterman, pitching here against Japan on Monday, came out of retirement to play in the Tokyo Olympics. Photo: ina Fried

TOKYO – When the U.S. and Japan take the field in Yokohama on Tuesday, they are playing for more than just a gold medal. As badly as both teams want to win, they also want to show the world their sport deserves a permanent place in the Olympics.

Why it matters: Softball is returning to the Olympics after a 12-year absence, but its long-term Olympic future is uncertain, with the sport not part of the 2024 Games in Paris and plans up in the air after that.

Updated 37 mins ago - Sports

Naomi Osaka eliminated from Olympic Games tennis tournament

Czech 42nd-ranked Marketa Vondrousova (L) shakes hands with Japan's Naomi Osaka after their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games women's singles third round tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on Tuesday. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP via Getty Images

Naomi Osaka was eliminated from the Olympics Games after losing her Tokyo tennis tournament match 6-1, 6-4 in the third round to Czech Marketa Vondrousova on Tuesday.

Of note: Japan's Osaka is the women's world No. 2, while is Vondrousova ranked No.42.