There’s been a lot of talk about the drug crisis in the United States. There’s been media focus from the news, reality TV shows and the White House on how to best combat our losing battle with the opioid epidemic. While the attention is on the stronger formulations in today’s drugs, both illicit and prescription, and how they gravely affect a person’s ability to fight off addiction, little still has been done to move the needle on the process of addiction treatment. But in a recent move by a Committee within the Energy and Commerce department, it appears as though the law is coming down on drug rehabs and misleading practices in addiction treatment.

First Wave in the Patient Brokering Crackdown

A dedicated group of officials and representatives who make up one of many Oversight and Investigation Committees has taken the fraudulent and cruel practice of patient brokering very seriously. After the countless stories heard from recovering addicts and family members with loved ones who lost their life due to body brokering, the clenched, punitive fist has come down on addiction rehab enterprises. The first in many heavy hands was delivered in a letter sent to various companies who market themselves as treating drug or alcohol addiction or providing recovery services.

These letters weren’t accusatory per se but more about calling out what fraudulent practices exist in the industry, citing these practices, and then providing a list of questions that must be answered and given to this Committee in a timely manner.

What Is Patient Brokering?

The practice of patient brokering can take on my forms. In general, it eludes to deceptive ways that people or businesses represent themselves and the services they provide in addiction treatment, recovery, sober living and halfway houses that puts the people they are supposedly helping in harm’s way.

List of Patient Brokering Examples

  1. Call centers that generate prospective patient leads and redirect the patient to a business that will pay a premium for the lead, irrespective of whether it is the right treatment placement for the patient.
  2. Patient information is shared and sold, without the permission of the patient – a HIPAA violation.
  3. Patients are not told by a call center that the drug rehab they are referred to is owned by the same company.
  4. Patients are bribed to pick one facility over another:
    1. Scholarships (free treatment)
    2. Free accommodations (sober living houses)
    3. Cash
    4. Yoga or recreational perks
    5. Cigarettes
    6. Drugs, YES DRUGS
  5. Inducing addiction relapse triggers

Number 5 on this list above is exceptionally disgusting. People who are barely on their road to sobriety are victimized by these body brokers at their most vulnerable and hopeful moments. These scumbags will strategically keep in contact with treatment facility representatives and are notified when patients are released from their program. Once they graduate, the patient broker follows them, makes contact and entices relapse by offering them drugs for free. Because many patients use insurance to receive addiction treatment, body brokers have found a loophole in the system and take advantage of it at patients’ expense. Once the drug relapse happens, the broker “helps” patients get back into treatment and receives thousands of dollars for doing so.

Questions Put Drug Rehabs on the Hot Seat and Help People Seeking Treatment

misleading practices in addiction treatment

Based on the definition of patient brokering and how it transpires across the addiction treatment and recovery industry, a letter of inquiry was distributed just two weeks ago to eight companies. It includes questions that, when answered, will provide further insights into how these businesses operate, what loopholes currently exist and what needs to be done to tighten up the process and protect patients and their families.

The following addiction treatment businesses were recipients of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s letter; Addiction No More, Addiction Recovery Now, American Addiction Centers, Elite Rehab Placement, Intervention Allies, Redwood Recovery Solutions, Solutions Recovery Center and Treatment Management Company.

As a sampling of the questions asked, here are some of what was included in the letter to American Addiction Centers:

  • “Does your call center refer, connect or recommend individuals seeking treatment for substance use disorder with substance use disorder facilities, detox centers, and/or sober living homes? If so, do these facilities pay your company for these services?
  • How does your company determine the facility to which it will refer an individual? Please provide all policies and procedures referring or relating to the placement of individuals seeking treatment at a facility.
  • What, if any, websites do you own or operate to advertise your call center?
  • Please provide a breakdown of the number of calls that your company has received and/or routed to any facilities by month, from January 2013 to present.
  • Have any facilities that you have connected patients with, owned, or operated had a license revoked or been shut down?
  • Were any of those facilities found to be participating in patient brokering or similar fraudulent activities?”

The above is just a sampling of the complete letter. The companies who received the letter were required to respond yesterday, June 12, 2018.

Opening the Door to Transparency for Better Patient Care

The cycle of addiction and recovery from it rests with the ability to treat the disease effectively. While the industry has a long way to go in providing better access to quality care, these letters are a promising first step. For anyone considering an alcohol or drug treatment facility, it’s important to ask questions.

The first point of contact in drug rehab, for most, is the person on the other end of the telephone. If you don’t feel as though they are providing you with honest, direct and knowledgeable responses, follow your intuition. There are other treatment programs that do operate with integrity, backed by professionals and the proper accreditations.

We’re Ready to Answer Your Questions about Quality Addiction Treatment

Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Arizona Addiction Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2007.  Call  888-512-1705.

Melanie SternAuthored by Melanie Stern, Content Director for Scottsdale Recovery Center, Arizona Addiction Recovery Centers and Cohn Media, LLC. Writer and broadcaster covering the following industries: addiction rehab, health care, entertainment, technology and advocate of clear communication, positivity and humanity at its best.

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