Imagine you were injured in a car accident. An ambulance quickly arrives at the scene. However, instead of being taken to the closest hospital or the best trauma center for your injuries, you were taken to a different hospital that provided a kickback to the ambulance driver.

This scenario sounds too corrupt to be real, yet a version of this story happens on a daily basis in the addiction treatment world. It’s called patient brokering, and California has seen its share. Is patient brokering even illegal, and how can it be stopped? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the patient brokering crisis in California and find out what’s being done to address the problem.

Understanding Patient Brokering

Patient brokering can best be described as “selling” clients to treatment programs. In this practice, unethical treatment centers pay companies or individuals to recruit potential clients who have good insurance coverage.

To these centers, an individual struggling with heroin addiction can be worth tens of thousands of dollars in insurance payments—paying a middleman referral fees would be a small price to pay in return. Not only do middlemen receive compensation for bringing new clients to certain treatment centers, but clients themselves are sometimes lured with the promise of free travel and other incentives.

Why Is Patient Brokering Happening in California?

Laws regarding the regulation of addiction treatment centers vary from state to state. California has a rapidly growing addiction treatment industry, and the legislation to regulate this industry has not fully caught up. This has made it temporarily easier for unscrupulous treatment centers to open up and prosper.

There are so many treatment facilities in the Los Angeles area that the region has earned the nickname “The Rehab Riviera.” The sunny environment and nearby beaches of southern California make these treatment centers an attractive choice for potential clients, which helps middlemen recruit unsuspecting victims in patient brokering scams.

Taking Action

Lawmakers in California are working rapidly to crack down on the practice of patient brokering with the introduction of new bills.

Senate bill SB 902 tightens the regulation and licensing of addiction treatment centers in California, requiring extensive background checks for license applicants. Another proposed bill, SB 1268, takes direct aim at patient brokering itself, making the practice a misdemeanor. This new legislation would penalize anyone who gives or receives compensation for the referral of a client to an addiction treatment program.

As the opioid addiction crisis continues to devastate the United States, it’s no surprise that patient brokering has become a more widespread problem. It’s time for this corrupt practice to come to an end.

Patient brokering allows unethical treatment centers to prey on vulnerable clients when they need help the most, and it gives the addiction recovery field a bad name. There are plenty of treatment centers in California that operate in an ethical, client-focused manner, and they support legislation that prohibits patient brokering.