What is Patient Brokering?
Patient brokering, or “body brokering,” is a growing stain on the drug treatment industry. A third party, the “broker,” provides persuasive incentives, such as money or in some cases drugs, for addicts to sign up at a treatment facility. In return, the treatment facility hands the broker a referral bonus — anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 per new client.
This problem began to surface in 2014, when the ACA (Affordable Care Act), or Obamacare passed. While in recovery, many addicts discovered the “gold rush” of monetary opportunity awaiting them – in buying and selling insured addicts from one center to another.
To address this issue, the California State Senate approved CCAPP-sponsored legislation on March 31st that will prohibit “kickbacks” for referrals to addiction treatment facilities, and prohibit “pay to patient” practices that are marring the face of the industry.
The perfect storm was compounded when brokers discovered that PPO rehab providers were being penalized by insurance companies for directly mailing the provider’s checks for services to patients in rehab.
As such, opportunistic third-party brokers learned how to change addresses to receive the money. With this money, brokers would buy and sell addicts, caught in the clutches of “body brokering.”
In this way, patient brokering becomes a game of numbers: the more addicts that join treatment centers, the more money the center and broker make. It is a system built on exploiting the vulnerable.
What do Brokers Look For?
The brokers aim for the lowest effort but the best reward – whoever is most desperate but has the most money.
There are hundreds of thousands of third-party websites masquerading as a behavioral rehabilitation center. Instead, they are “fronting” as a rehab center and preparing to exploit the next vulnerable, desperate family.
Keep in mind, the goal of most brokers is to secure patients for 30-day programs. They do their best to enable a patient’s relapse in order to move the patient to another rehab center and secure another trip through the broker’s money-making scheme.
Treating people like cattle is not only dangerously unhealthy for the addict, but also shatters the integrity of the drug treatment industry. Patient brokering harms those who need help most and undermines efforts toward true recovery.
There is a need to hold treatment centers responsible for patient brokering. Not only that, but the rehab industry must re-establish trust while holding to a strong model of ethical behavior.
If the center offers bonuses or commissions for anyone signing up to the client or anyone else, participating in what amounts to a ‘Ponzi scheme,’ they may be involved in patient brokering.
Although California has been taking steps toward regulating body brokering, progress is slow. As such, it is imperative that centers establish guidelines and procedures to protect their patients. Not all treatment centers are guilty of these practices, and there exist many who do focus on patient health. Yet, the wrongful patterns of the past have tarnished the public’s faith.
Because these unscrupulous racketeers have cast a shadow on the state of our industry, keep in mind these questions when searching for a rehab center for yourself or a loved one:
- What is the length of their program?
- What happens to the patient after the program ends?
- How many staff are available at a time?
- How do they treat and prevent relapses?
- The program should be long-term with a comprehensive six-month to a year transitional sober living component.
While researching the treatment center, ask all these questions and more, but be wary of third parties. Anyone inserting themselves into the selection process and offering incentives may not have your health in mind.
Are they offering a free trip to rehab? Will they give you money to go? Are they selling a rehab ‘scholarship’ or ‘vacation’? If so, these are all red flags indicating a potential patient broker. Rehab is about helping those with addiction — examine centers that advertise extravagant amenities with a critical eye.
Choosing a rehabilitation center is like choosing where your money goes: if you want insurance, buy insurance. If you want to save money, open a savings account. But never attempt both in one insurance policy.
In that way, if you’re looking for a luxurious vacation, book a hotel and go travel. If you are in need of treatment and rehab, choose a place that will honestly and professionally focus on you and your recovery.
Not all recovery centers take part in patient brokering, but many do. Keeping you and your loved one safe as they begin their treatment is of utmost importance.
Here at StepHouse Recovery, we do not take part in any patient brokering schemes or practices.
We keep our focus on the long-term recovery and needs of our clients. We take any complaints of improper conduct very seriously and do our utmost to maintain the trust and well-being of our clients.
Stay informed, ask questions, and take that crucial step onto the path of recovery.