BOSTON — 25 Investigates spent months and covered thousands of miles to expose false hope sold to people seeking treatment for addiction. This investigative series travels into the dark world of patient brokering.
In 2017, our unit's careful review of hundreds of individual death records identified dozens of people from New England who traveled to one county in Florida for drug rehab, only to come home in body bags. We traveled to Palm Beach County and found a deadly insurance scam.
The opioid epidemic has hit New England extremely hard, as the demand for treatment exceeds the availability, making it an area ripe for patient brokers to find new clients.
Patient brokering is an illegal practice where drug treatment centers pay third-party headhunters illegal kickbacks for each patient referral. The headhunters lure potential patients to Florida by offering free gifts which usually include a one-way flight, plus free room and board. We discovered addicts are often tangled in a web of corruption as soon as they arrive in Palm Beach County. The treatment centers use the patients for insurance fraud, charging thousands of dollars in questionable blood and urine tests for each patient. The addicts end up bouncing from rehab to rehab, collecting cash and other free gifts with each new admission.
This series of reports by 25 Investigates has led the way in what's become a national movement to inform patients and promote sweeping changes in the addiction treatment industry, rooting out the false hope sold to so many around the country.