As you search for the recovery option that is most appropriate for you or for your loved one, you should know some simple steps you can take to make the right choice.
What you should also know is that in the wake of the growing opioid crisis, another sinister industry is emerging. Scams related to recovery programs are a real problem. It’s important to arm yourself with knowledge so that you can identify fraud and stay safe from it.
Very Brief Overview of the Scam Cycle
The overall goal of the recovery center scheme in question is to exploit loopholes in health insurance. “Patient recruiters” are paid to seek out persons who either already have insurance or can be signed up for insurance – and who appear to be struggling with substance abuse. The patient is then treated to a free flight and sometimes free accommodations in a recovery center or a sober home. Then, their insurance is billed exorbitant amounts for treatment they never receive. Drugs and alcohol often pass freely through these centers. Many patients arrive sober and relapse while in the centers. Some die. The wellbeing and recovery of the patient is not considered. Profits gained from insurance fraud are the only the priority.
The video contained in this link gives a good starting point to understand the breadth and seriousness of this issue.
Precautions You Can Take
This issue is a serious and growing one but you can protect yourself. The Health Care Division of the Massachusetts State Government created a webpage with simple guidelines to follow when faced with a potentially suspicious offer for recovery. “Consumer Advisory: Scams That Refer People to Out-of-State Addiction Treatment Facilities Offering Little or No Treatment to Patients” can be helpful to anyone.
We have adapted the advisory here:
- Recruiting attempts are most common from treatment centers in Arizona, California, and Florida.
- Recruiters often use texts or social media to recruit patients.
- Recruiters may offer to pay for airfare and health insurance to cover the costs of out-of-state treatment.
- Be wary of unsolicited referrals to out-of-state treatment facilities.
- Anyone seeking to arrange for your addiction treatment out-of-state may be getting paid by the treatment center.
- Anyone paid a referral fee for recommending a particular treatment center does not have your best interests in mind.
- Be wary of anyone offering to pay for your insurance coverage. They can stop paying your premiums at any time, which will result in the cancellation of your insurance.
- If you accept an offer by someone to pay for travel to an out-of-state clinic, make sure you have a plan and the means to pay for a trip back home.
- Be careful about giving your personal information – including your social security number or insurance number – to a recruiter, unless you can confirm that the person is employed by a medical provider or insurance company.
- If someone is offering to arrange travel or cover insurance costs for treatment, call the treatment facility or your insurance company to confirm that the person is an employee.
If you suspect that a treatment option might be too good to be true, slow down and do some investigating. There are legitimate, lawful, and conscientious recovery options available.
To begin to get an idea of the scope of this issue, we are providing reports from publications across the U.S. Take some time to familiarize yourself with these stories. If you encounter a potentially fraudulent and dangerous recovery offer, you will be more prepared.
Our next post will feature an easy-to-digest overview of these schemes. Until then, here is some additional reading:
- “Reports Of Rehab Scams Raise Concerns About Addiction Treatment Quality” from WBUR – This link leads to the written and audio version of a radio story produced in Boston about crooked recovery practices and how they affect Massachusetts.
- “‘Junkie hunters’ lured addicts to scam ‘sober home’ in $58 million fraud, feds say” from the The Washington Post – This article highlights the fraud committed by one particular Florida sober home and its impact on those who sought help there.
- “Desperate for addiction treatment, patients are pawns in lucrative insurance fraud scheme” from Stat News – This piece gives another take on the national ring of lies that deceives those suffering from substance use disorders into illegitimate and dangerous recovery settings.
- “The addict brokers: Middlemen profit as desperate patients are ‘treated like paychecks’” from Stat News – This article details the exploits of one patient recruiter and the painful ramifications for the individuals affected by his actions and others in this industry.
- “How some Southern California drug rehab centers exploit addiction” from The Orange County Register – This lengthy article tells some of the same stories but from the other side of the country.
- “Searching for Help” from The Verge – Here is another long article that exposes the toxic relationship of online advertisers, health insurers, and disreputable recovery centers.
- “Desperate for help, heroin addicts get ‘hijacked’ to Florida” from The Philadelphia Inquirer – Tackling the story from another geographic perspective, this article addresses predatory recruiting of vulnerable Philadelphia residents to Florida recovery centers.
We can start you on the road to recovery.