A new breed of financier is raking in cash by exploiting vulnerable, injured women. These groups are finding women in need of potentially life-saving surgery and involved in vaginal mesh litigation. They pay for their surgeries and then stake a claim on any potential settlement the women may be awarded in the future.

“These companies exploit vulnerable women,” commented Robert Price, an attorney with the Levin, Papantonio law firm who handles transvaginal mesh lawsuits. “They often greatly inflate the actual cost of the surgery and significantly reduce the amount our clients receive in a settlement.”

There are as many as 100,000 lawsuits filed regarding transvaginal mesh, making it one of the largest litigations in the last 20 years. The practice was the focus of a recent Reuters piece, “The Lien Machine.”

Reuters describes the way these companies function thus:

Medical funders, often working through go-betweens…, purchase medical bills at a deep discount from physicians, hospitals and others who have provided care to patients involved in personal injury litigation. Some medical funders also provide “concierge care” to these patients, fronting them travel and expense money at a high rate of interest.

Patients who rely on medical funders tend to be poor. They either lack private insurance or can’t afford to pay cash deductibles or out-of-network fees charged by their doctors.

When a patient’s lawsuit settles, the medical funder stakes a claim on part of the settlement by placing a lien for the full amount of the surgical bill. The funder’s profit lies in the difference between what it pays the medical provider to buy the bill and what it is able to recover from the patient’s settlement.

Often, these companies make claims for procedures that are vastly out of step with what they paid. For example, procedures routinely cost Blue Cross and Blue Shield around $900 to $1,300. Medical funders have charged as much as $62,000 in liens against settlements, for the procedure.

Taking exorbitant fees from these vulnerable women is despicable, but a larger problem is exposed by these companies’ presence. While the companies are exploiting the women, they are filling a gap in insurance and legal protection for individuals injured by medical devices.

You may be able to afford to have the surgery to put a device in your body, but should that device be faulty or fail, you may never be able to afford to have it removed.