But an investigation by NBC News has found that many of these vulnerable patients have become grist in an insurance fraud mill. Crooked treatment centers partner with “body brokers” and operators of so-called “sober homes” to find patients with good health insurance. Brokers and sober home owners offer those trying to get clean free rent and grocery store gift cards, cigarettes and manicures in exchange for going to a specific treatment center, which pays kickbacks for every client.
Once they’ve reeled patients in, these treatment centers bill their insurance tens of thousands of dollars for often questionable counseling, costly and potentially unnecessary drug screens, and exotic laboratory tests. Some treatment centers not only overlook drug use — they encourage it. To Florida’s worst operators, relapse doesn’t mean failure. It means profit.
“This is an entire industry that’s been corrupted by easy money,” said Palm Beach County’s top prosecutor, State Attorney Dave Aronberg. “Unscrupulous actors have taken advantage of well-intended federal law, and a lack of any good law at the state level, to profit off people at the lowest stages of their lives.”