“Body Brokering” Casts Shadow Over Substance Abuse Treatment Industry
Patient brokering, also known as “body brokering”, is the practice of off-trading a client referral for money, and it’s becoming more common in today’s drug rehab and substance abuse treatment industry, and threatens to undermine the overall success rate for treating patients. Cases of patient brokering, insurance fraud and other unethical practices have led the FBI to investigate several drug rehab facilities and prompted drastic actions by health insurers, yet recent reports suggest such illicit activities are still taking place. Typically, “body brokering” works like this: a patient/body broker contacts a treatment center with a specific person who is in need of treatment. In return for this referral he/she expects a payment. This transaction could potentially come from another treatment center, a counselor or coach, a freelance treatment placement specialist, an interventionist, call centers who ask for a marketing agreement and most clearly, the street level marketer.
449 Recovery Goes on the Offensive
Recently, in an effort to outline and address the growing concern over “body brokering”, Andrew Maloof, Business Development Representative at 449 Recovery, was a featured speaker at an area round table and discussion in San Juan Capistrano. In general, the cost of patient acquisition involving the practice of paid referrals, or “body brokering” is between $10,000 to $15,000 per patient. In addition, many of those who are ‘sold’ to a clinic don’t receive the appropriate care that addresses their specific addiction situation. “To some, this practice may seem harmless,” explains Andrew, “but it’s clearly not. First of all, a good treatment center should not need to pay someone to send them clients. Their clinical work should speak for itself. Secondly, many clients you pay for may end up being inappropriate for your program.” Maloof and the staff at 449 Recovery have adopted an aggressive “hands-off” policy concerning the practice of paid referrals, and are actively seeking to influence other addiction treatments centers to do the same. Says Maloof, “The sale or purchase of a client/patient referral in our industry is nothing less than poaching. Not only is it unethical, it’s illegal, and it is a disservice to our patient/clients. We need to create a spirit of cooperation among all addiction treatment centers and do a better job of self-regulation so our industry can see improvements in our patient treatment success rates.”
Stricter Regulations and Tighter Enforcement May Be on the Way
To combat the rising tide in patient brokering, there are hints that additional regulations and enforcement may be coming. According to Bryn Wesch, Chief Financial Officer for Novus Medical Detox Center, regulation concerning substance abuse treatment centers is long overdue. “So many other businesses are regulated, yet these addiction centers and halfway houses escape regulation because they are classified as ‘residences.’ We’ve seen the consequences of unregulated recovery residences and the harm they can cause,” said Wesch. “That’s why we’d like to see regulations expanded throughout the addiction treatment industry, so that people with substance use disorders can be assured of safe, outcome-focused care from legitimate providers of detox, drug rehab and intensive outpatient treatment programs.”