Senate probes private-equity's role in ED staffing

A Senate committee has sent letters to Apollo Global Management, the Blackstone Group and KKR — three of the nation's largest private-equity firms — and four emergency medicine staffing companies owned by the firms, requesting they provide information by April 17 on how they oversee or staff hospital emergency departments, according to an NBC News report. 

The hospital staffing companies that received letters from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee seeking documents regarding ED operations are: U.S. Acute Care Solutions (backed by Apollo); Envision Healthcare (previously owned by KKR); Team Health (backed by Blackstone). LifePoint Health also received a letter. Nashville, Tenn.-based LifePoint Health operates 62 hospitals in 16 states and is owned by Apollo.

"I am concerned that our nation's largest emergency medicine staffing companies may be engaging in cost-saving measures at the expense of patient safety and care, which could put our nation's emergency preparedness at risk," Sen. Gary Peters, D.-Mich., chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement announcing the inquiry. 

"I am pressing these companies and their private equity owners for needed transparency so that we better understand how their business practices could be affecting patient safety, quality care, and physicians' abilities to exercise independent judgment in providing patient care." 

The Senate committee said Mr. Peters' information requests come after his office conducted interviews with more than 40 emergency medicine physicians who raised "significant concerns" about patient care that they say stem from the practices of private equity-owned staffing companies and hospitals. They called attention to improper billing, retaliation and anti-competitive activities, Mr. Peters said in his letters to the companies, which were also asked to arrange a meeting with the committee by May 3. 

In statements to NBC, Apollo, Envision, TeamHealth and LifePoint all said they welcome discussions with senators and intend to respond to the inquiry. KKR and Blackstone declined to comment. 

In 2022, NBC published an analysis that estimated at least 40% of hospital emergency departments in the U.S. are overseen by staffing companies that are owned by private-equity firms.

TeamHealth in a statement to Becker's confirmed it had received and was "reviewing the contents of the letter." 

"As a matter of practice, TeamHealth has not balance billed patients in its 44 year history, keeping patients out of the middle of any dispute with an insurer for underpayment," the company said. "The top prioritiy for TeamHealth and our clinicians is always delivering high-quality, safe patient care. We look forward to engaging with the Committee and demonstrating our uncompromised commitment to our clinicians and communities." 

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