Los Angeles, California -
Los Angeles, CA – Already weak and vulnerable in their struggle with addiction, people in need of treatment are being victimized by people claiming to help them, warns Muse Treatment, an accredited behavioral health center in Los Angeles.
The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced it had charged several Southern California treatment center operators and patient recruiters with running a “patient-selling network” that paid money for addicts referred to their care. Investigators said they had filed criminal charges against 10 defendants in connection with the alleged fraud at facilities in Orange County.
Investigators charge that the facility owners assigned monetary values to clients based on the type of insurance they had and then paid recruiters a kickback for each person referred to their rehab facilities. The longer the clients received treatment, the more money the recruiters were paid.
U.S. Attorney Tracy L. Wilkison said, “Driven by greed, dishonest operators of substance abuse treatment centers have invaded Southern California, but a coalition of law enforcement entities has responded forcefully. These corrupt individuals pay illegal kickbacks to obtain insured patients whose health plans pay generous benefits intended to cover legitimate treatments and tests.”
“While many recovery facilities offer much-needed services to addicts, those targeted in this sweep take advantage of our nation’s opioid crisis by fueling a patient-selling network more interested in generating profits than giving help to vulnerable people,” Wilkison said.
Wilkison and other law enforcement officials said the arrests were the result of a 10-month-long investigation known as The Sober Homes Initiative. The investigation targeted substance abuse facility owners and patient recruiters who allegedly, among other things, provided kickback payments for the referral of patients to addiction treatment centers, sober living homes or laboratories.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said, “These cases reflect the continued efforts of the Department of Justice to combat fraud by substance abuse treatment facilities and patient recruiters. These schemes take advantage of vulnerable members of our society – addiction patients seeking help. These cases illustrate the government’s commitment to protecting patients and prosecuting those who try to victimize them.”
Kristi K. Johnson, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said, “Fraudulent kickbacks in the substance abuse treatment field create perverse incentives for patient recruiters that oftentimes leave addicts in a toxic cycle of drug use and treatment. The FBI is committed to fighting fraud in the healthcare system so that those struggling with addiction can find legitimate care and encourages patients and employees to report kickback schemes.”
Amy K. Parker, special agent in charge of the Office of Personnel Management Office of the Inspector General, called the fraud “unconscionable.” But, she added, “We are extremely proud of our dedicated staff and federal law enforcement partner’s commitment to pursuing improper and illegal conduct that places vulnerable health care consumers at risk.”
California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said the alleged scheme “specifically targeted vulnerable individuals in recovery and sold them as a commodity with no concern for their health or wellbeing. Receiving kickbacks for patient referrals endangers lives and has no place in our health care system.”
Muse Treatment urges anyone considering substance abuse treatment, for themselves or a loved one, to use caution when choosing appropriate care. When searching for a quality treatment center, look for one that is accredited by an outside authority such as the Joint Commission. Check the California Department of Health’s website to look up the medical licenses of clinical staff to ensure they are valid and in good standing. Look for reviews from past patients on third-party sites like Google to see what others had to say about their experience at a particular treatment center.
Quality addiction treatment should be individualized to meet each client’s specific needs, and referral inquiries should always focus on those needs rather than simply on whether the prospective client has insurance coverage to pay for elaborate programs. Be sure to ask plenty of questions before deciding on a treatment center. It’s also completely acceptable to ask for a tour of the facility before making a decision.
For anyone in need of help with substance abuse either for themselves or a loved one, Muse is a trusted provider that has helped thousands of people find lasting recovery from addiction. For more information or to speak with a treatment specialist anytime, day or night, call Muse Treatment at 800-426-1818. Calls are completely confidential.
SOURCE: Press Advantage [Link]
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