House committee investigating patient brokers

Jun 11 2018

House committee investigating patient brokers

A House committee investigating patient brokering in the addiction treatment industry announced Tuesday it has sent letters to eight call aggregators, businesses who connect people seeking treatment to sober living homes. The bipartisan Energy and Commerce Committee is seeking information about how their employees are trained, and what they disclose to callers about any affiliations with treatment centers.

The letters were sent to Addiction No More, Gilmer, Texas; Addiction Recovery Now, North Miami, Fla.; American Addiction Centers, Brentwood, Tenn.; Elite Rehab Placement, Clinton, Mich.; Intervention Allies, Los Angeles; Redwood Recovery Center, Vancouver, Wash.; Solutions Recovery Center, DelRey Beach, Fla.; and Treatment Management Company of Atlanta, Ga.

The letters were signed by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS), Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX).

“Those battling addiction deserve a safe and dependable environment when seeking treatment,” the committee said in a news release.
The committee says the letters are the latest step in the committee’s ongoing investigation into patient brokering by businesses serving as intermediaries and profiting from the recruitment of patients seeking treatment for addiction. Kickbacks paid to patient brokers by treatment providers have been reported.

“One of the ways that patient brokers can generate leads on potential clients is through phone hotlines that connect to call centers or call aggregaters,” the committee leaders wrote.

“During the course of the committee’s investigation into patient brokering, the committee received testimony from the President and CEO of a treatment facility who said call aggregators ‘are essentially collecting leads for treatment centers who are willing to pay a price’ and that the call centers will pre-screen potential patients with the goal to ‘ultimately sell the patient’s information to the highest bidder.’

“Some treatment facilities and marketers are upfront about their use of call aggregators and disclose the names of companies or facilities that answer potential patients’ calls. Others reportedly engage in deceptive tactics to hide the fact that they refer patients to treatment facilities that pay for referrals or to facilities owned by the same company that is operating the hotline.”

The committee first examined reports of patient brokering last July, when bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services. In November, bipartisan committee leaders sent letters to the departments of six state governments regarding patient brokering allegations. Patient brokering was also the subject of a December, 2017 subcommittee hearing on fraud and abuse in the drug treatment industry.

During its investigation into patient brokering, the Committee heard testimony from the president and CEO of a treatment facility who said call aggregators “are essentially collecting leads for treatment centers who are willing to pay a price” and that the call centers will pre-screen potential patients with the goal to “ultimately sell the patient’s information to the highest bidder.”

The committee said “some treatment facilities and marketers are upfront about their use of call aggregaters and disclose the names of companies or facilities that answer potential patients’ calls. Others reportedly engage in deceptive tactics to hide the fact that they refer patients to treatment facilities that pay for referrals or to facilities owned by the same company that is operating the hotline.”

Mark Dunn, director of public policy for the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, said his organization has been working with the House Committee for months. “We have met with committee staff numerous times and a prominent NAATP member CEO testified at one on their public hearings. We support efforts by Congress to identify and address ethical and quality issues in the field. This investigation undertaken by Congress on a bi-partisan basis, is welcomed by NAATP leadership. The Association has received considerable attention since the enhanced ethics policy for NAATP members has been implemented.”