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What Is Patient Brokering?

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What is patient brokeringSouth Florida’s treatment providers and the surrounding recovery community are under fire. After the recent arrests of several individuals who were running sober home and addiction treatment scams, the reports of rampant insurance fraud, prostitution, and deaths have left a large black mark on an otherwise inspiring community of people in recovery.

Your safety is our priority, so we want to make sure you – as a potential patient, a parent, a friend – understand what patient brokering is, and the facts about what is really happening in the South Florida addiction treatment industry. Here are three main points you need to know:

  1. What these individuals did is not an accurate representation of the addiction treatment industry as a whole. These are greedy criminals who took advantage of a broken system and sick people.
  2. The Sober Homes Task Force was specifically built in an effort to help law enforcement officials identify criminal activity, protect the community as well as the legitimate addiction treatment providers, and identify the individuals who were taken advantage of.
  3. There are several reputable treatment programs here in South Florida that have been operating for many years. They are accredited and licensed to provide addiction treatment services, and are also honest, trustworthy and invested in the recovery of their patients. The Watershed Addiction Treatment Programs, Inc. has been helping addicts and alcoholics into recovery since 1998 and actively supports the Sober Homes Task Force’s mission.

What Is Patient Brokering

Patient brokering explained simply is the act of trading a patient to a treatment program in exchange for money and/or perks. This can actually occur in a few different ways. In some cases, an individual will approach a treatment program or sober home with a prospective patient, soliciting a kickback or fee in exchange for the information. In other cases, the program or sober home itself will recruit individuals, their own patients, or other programs to send them patients in return for a kickback or fee. Regardless of who initiates this transaction, it is illegal and it is a form of human trafficking.

Patient brokering is a symptom of a larger issue of greed fed by insurance fraud. These illicit treatment programs or sober homes can afford to pay these brokers as a result of billing the living daylights out of the patient’s insurance policy for treatment they did not receive, urine tests they did not take, and unrelated testing (like DNA or brain scans) charges.

How Patient Brokering Hurts The Addiction Industry

In rare cases, people see brokers as a type of hero, because even if the patient died, and regardless of the broker’s ill-gotten gains, the broker still “saved lives” by getting patients into treatment. But the real problem goes much deeper. If these criminals continue to commit insurance fraud, then insurance companies may begin to pull away from providing coverage for the legitimate treatment services that help addicts and alcoholics recover. If you have private insurance, it’s now costing you money also, because your premiums go up to help cover the costs of this thievery. In addition, the addicts attending these programs aren’t being given a true and fair chance at recovery. Some may have recovered, but others were given more drugs in exchange for their urine, some died from overdoses, and others were turned into prostitutes. These brokers and corrupt programs are not heroes – they are criminals and need to be treated as such.

How Patient Brokering Hurts Our Recovery Community

Patient brokering hurts our recovery community and the honest treatment programs. There is still largely a negative stigma around addiction in this country. People continue to believe that we are all just a bunch of junkies and drunks, and that addiction is a choice. Even among some people in recovery, there is a belief that the 12-steps do not work, and that treatment is just a waste of time. If all the American public hears as a result of these criminal acts is that addiction is a choice and addicts and alcoholics are unworthy of medical treatment for their disease, thousands upon thousands of lives will be lost due to a lack of medical treatment and recovery options.

Recovering From Patient Brokering

We need to come together as a recovery community and show the world that treatment does work, that not all programs engage in patient brokering, and that a 12-step program of recovery can help keep you sober long-term. The way you can do this is by sharing your story with suffering addicts and alcoholics, refer people only to honest programs that are accredited and licensed, and report any illegal or suspicious activity to the Sober Homes Task Force. Together we can help rebuild our community and put the criminals behind bars. No addict or alcoholic should have to suffer the ultimate sacrifice for this. We can and we do recover.

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