Clinic facilities

Mayo Clinic charges patient to learn about clinical study

Interested in participating in a clinical study? Make sure your medical providers aren’t charging you just to find out what it entails.

The big picture: Clinical tests are not free for patients, but experts interviewed for this story agreed that a hospital shouldn’t charge people just to get information about them.

Enlarge: John Mathna, 58, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, suffers a brachial plexus avulsion injury, which creates pain from damaged nerves near his spinal cord.

  • Last June, he says he contacted a doctor at the Mayo Clinic a study to see if electrical stimulation might help relieve pain in these types of injuries.
  • After a video call with the doctor that lasted 20-30 minutes, Mathna weighed her options with her wife. He ultimately decided not to participate.

The law project: $476 from the Mayo Clinic.

  • On top of that, he says Cigna, his insurer, told him the consultation was out-of-network and therefore not covered at all.

Between the lines: Mathna had to submit personal and insurance information online ahead of the video call, but he said no one at the Mayo Clinic told him he would be charged for anything – nor did he receive no real care.

  • “If I had been told of the possible charges, I would have told my insurance company to say, ‘Hey, can we charge this? ‘” Mathna said.

What they say : According to experts in health care financing and clinical trials disbursements interfered with participation in clinical studies. But no one Axios contacted had heard of hospitals charging patients who only learn what’s involved – and they hoped Mathna’s situation was a mistake and an anomaly.

  • “What you don’t want to do is create barriers for people who want to participate in a study,” said Erin Fuse Brown, professor of health law and policy at Georgia State University.
  • “It would be a huge deterrent if there was a possibility that you could get an invoice before giving your consent.”

The other side: The Mayo Clinic declined several interview requests and instead submitted a declaration that said, “We will not comment on specific patient circumstances, but we can say that study participation is handled separately from clinical appointments or consultations.”

  • Cigna did not respond to interview requests.

The resolution: The Mayo Clinic waived Mathna’s entire $476 balance after Axios inquired about her case. Mayo also told the collection agency that was suing Mathna to “cease all contact” with him, according to an email shared by Mathna.

  • Mathna was happy the bill was approved, but said the experience “made me very uncomfortable with the supposedly respected medical treatment facilities”.

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