Company in federal surprise billing debate to staff 2 Maine hospital ERs

A Nashville, Tenn.-based company that has opposed a surprise billing solution under consideration in Congress will take over emergency room staffing at Calais (Maine) Regional Hospital and Down East Community Hospital in Machias, Maine, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Envision Physician Services will take over those duties in March, replacing Maine-based company BlueWater Health, the newspaper reported.

Envision Healthcare, the parent company of Envision Physician Services, has been identified by The New York Times as backing a so-called "dark money" group calling itself Doctor Patient Unity. Doctor Patient Unity began running $28.6 million in ads earlier this year opposing federally set benchmark rates, a surprise-billing approach being considered in Congress to resolve out-of-network payment disputes between insurance companies and physicians and hospitals. Its website says it "support[s] a federal solution to surprise medical bills that makes insurance companies pay their fair share and supports patients' right to quality medical care."

At Calais, which entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sept. 17, and Down East, Envision Physician Services said it intends to keep a similar level of staffing as BlueWater has at the facilities, according to the Daily News. This includes having at least one physician in each of the emergency departments 24/7.

DeeDee Travis, vice president of community relations at Calais, told the newspaper the hospital will save about $900,000 annually with Envision. Julie Hixson, marketing director at Down East, estimated that the Machias hospital would save several hundred thousand dollars annually.


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