STAT, May 28, 2017
David Armstrong — STAT and Evan Allen — Boston Globe

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[...] Patient brokers can earn up to tens of thousands of dollars a year by wooing vulnerable addicts for treatment centers that often provide few services and sometimes are run by disreputable operators with no training or expertise in drug treatment, according to Florida law enforcement officials and two individuals who worked as brokers in Massachusetts. Cleggett refused to say whether he was paid to find customers for Florida treatment centers.

The facilities are tapping into a flood of dollars made available to combat the opioid epidemic and exploiting a shortage of treatment beds in many states. As center owners and brokers profit, many patients get substandard treatment and relapse.

The role of patient brokers in steering addicts to out-of-state treatment centers is now coming under scrutiny from law enforcement, including Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, according to a spokeswoman for her office. “These recruitment operations take advantage of the desperation of people struggling with addiction to refer them to treatment centers not based on their best interest, but in order to get a commission,” Healey said in a statement. “Patients need to access safe and effective recovery options instead of being treated like paychecks.”

Such arrangements can be illegal in some cases under federal and Massachusetts law if facilities pay brokers to bring them patients and if patients are given inducements, such as free travel or insurance, to enroll in a particular treatment center. [...]

addiction health care reform health law policy insurance public health regulation