Patient finance companies inflate bills for mesh removal procedures

A medical lending company that arranged for women to have pelvic mesh implants removed often charged them more than 20 times what it actually cost to perform the surgery, Reuters has reported.

Lending to cover medical bills has grown in recent years, but many firms focus on providing low-interest loans to help cover co-payments and deductibles. Not so in the mesh cases.

A middleman firm would arrange for the procedures to take place, paying surgeons a flat rate of $2,500, according to the wire service. Occasionally, the doctors would be encouraged to dramatize the extent the mesh may have caused internal injuries.That information would then be used to drive up a potential settlement from the mesh manufacturer. Meanwhile, the company would then sell the outstanding medical bill to finance firms such as MedStar, which would inflate the bill further.

Claims against mesh manufacturers for causing bodily injuries have led to more than 100,000 lawsuits in the United States, nearly the equal of litigation over asbestos exposure, according to Reuters.

But at the same time, MedStar would place a lien against the patient to reimburse its cost for the surgery. But the company would charge as much as $62,000 for the surgery for which it had paid $2,500, and for which most commercial insurers reimburse between $2,000 and $7,000.

Meanwhile, most of the mesh manufacturers that have entered into global settlements have paid victims an average of $40,000.

The liens in the mesh case are reminiscent of hospitals filing such liens against victims of automobile accidents--a move to try and boost much smaller payouts from medical insurers.

In one case, Alabama resident Traci Rizzo was charged more than $60,000 for her mesh removal and related expenses, although they totaled up to around $21,000. After complaining, MedStar cut the lien against her judgment to around $32,500. Rizzo's health problems have also worsened after having the removal surgery, according to Reuters.

But some doctors who perform the surgeries say they offer a valuable service. "The funding allows patients who would never get help otherwise to get help," Georgia-based gynecologist Michael Hulse, M.D., told Reuters.

To learn more:
- read the Reuters article