Allegedly private clinics cash in on insurance money with false Lyme disease diagnoses

There’s an interesting letter in The Times today (29-08-23) from a doctor, Dr. Matthew Dryden. He says that, in the USA, private clinics take advantage of “vulnerable patients” by allegedly deliberately wrongly diagnosing Lyme disease. This allows them to prescribe a long course of expensive treatment all paid for by health insurance.

Lyme disease caused by ticks is being allegedly deliberately misdiagnosed by private clinics to cash in on insurance money
Lyme disease caused by ticks is being allegedly deliberately misdiagnosed by private clinics to cash in on insurance money. Image: MikeB
Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

The issue is this: US medical insurers cover the cost of treating Lyme disease but they don’t cover the cost of treating chronic fatigue syndrome known as ME. And these two diseases have similar symptoms. Little is actually really known about ME. The symptoms, as I understand it, are quite vague being a kind of general malaise and feeling exhausted. But the symptoms can also be present with Lyme disease.

And I think people should know about this and I’m thinking of American cat owners! Often slightly older people who have a couple of cats as companions. And there is an overlap here with cats of course. Cats can get Lyme disease because they can walk in long grass and the tick jumps off the grass onto the cat. Dogs are far more likely to get the disease.

That is the general scenario but I’ve just read an article on the Cornell Feline Health Center website which states that Lyme disease is probably not a concern the cat owners and “the disease has never been seen in a cat outside a laboratory”. I find the last statement remarkable. It is more or less saying that domestic cats allowed outside in America don’t get Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a spiral-shaped bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which enters an animal’s system via the bite of a young tick (nymph) or an adult female tick.

William Miller Jr., VMD, a professor of Dermatology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine

Back to humans! Dr. Dryden states that “a profitable medical industry grew up [in America] around this”. He is referring to the anomaly in health cover mentioned above resulting in clinics exploiting this weakness in insurance.

And he adds that this alleged practice of misdiagnosing various conditions as Lyme disease had spread across the Atlantic to the UK and across the Pacific to Australia. As it happens, Lyme disease has never been found in Australia but remarkably it appears that doctors are diagnosing the disease in Australia! I’m confused.

He adds that, “Lyme disease is being misdiagnosed by private concerns using un-validated diagnostic tests. These clinics and laboratories are taking advantage of vulnerable and desperate people with chronic symptoms”.

The doctor spoke to The Times about this, I presume after he wrote the letter to newspaper, and in that conversation, he said that some private clinics send tests to oversee laboratories with allegedly the intention of getting the overseas lab to provide the result that they want namely a positive result for Lyme.

However, in many of these cases especially involving younger people they are suffering from chronic ME and other conditions.

He alleges that some clinics are putting profit over care but he’s not blaming all private clinics. They serve a purpose in supporting an overstretched NHS which is essentially broken in many respects.

Lyme disease is most often caused by a tick bite. Ticks are nasty parasites which jump onto us and our animals when we walk in grass. I got a tick in Richmond Park a few years ago and it ended up in my right ear! I wondered what it was and prodded and poked around and then realised that it was a tick. Fortunately, I didn’t get Lyme disease but I never went to a doctor to find out. That was self-diagnosis from the fact that I felt perfectly okay.

But Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose partly because in many cases people don’t know they been bitten by a tick and therefore they can only report this general malaise of feeling ill leaving the doctor struggling to come to an accurate diagnosis.

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