Ills of The Recovery Industry: Body Brokering

Table of Contents

America’s opioid addiction is still an issue. 

In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses. This past December, The U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan bill to prevent opioid addiction, overdoses, and deaths in rural communities. Additionally, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are record numbers of patients seeking treatment, with admissions to treatment facilities surging 600% between 1999 and 2008 alone. 

What you or the loved one you’re seeking to help may not know, however, is that the opioid crisis has inflated the addiction industry’s profitability, opening the door for corruption as a result. 

Here’s some perspective: The CDC estimates that the costs of healthcare, lost productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement — the total “economic burden” of prescription opioid misuse alone in the United States — is $78.5 billion a year.

Unfortunately, what the recovery industry’s booming market has done, is turn what was supposed to be a transformative and holistic experience into a potential system of insurance fraud, patient enticement, listing theft, and a host of many other schemes aimed at taking advantage of how lucrative the field of substance abuse treatment has become.

One of the most significant ills of the recovery industry is “body brokering,” which is the financial compensation for referring a patient to a drug treatment facility. 

At White House Recovery and Detox, we believe in complete transparency in the recovery industry. Exposing the industry exposes ourselves, and we hope you vet us with the same vigor we’re urging you to vet other treatment facilities. Treatment theory, practices, and meeting goals are all fine, but none of that matters if you’re not in the hands of someone who sees you or a loved one as more than a way to make money.  

Body brokering is a serious pitfall when getting into the business of recovery, and we want you fully aware of this issue.

I. What Is Body Brokering? 

At its root, “body brokering” or “patient brokering” is a type of health care fraud.

Anyone who accepts a fee, bribe, benefit, bonus, rebate, kickback, or a perk of any sort for referring a patient to a drug treatment center is a body broker. The act of body brokering might be illegal depending upon state laws.

If you’re looking for a treatment facility for yourself or a loved one and don’t have a professional relationship with a physician, it’s easy to get duped by these piranhas fed by financially motivated facilities offering anywhere from $500 to upwards of $5,000 per client.

From sharing kickbacks with patients and enticing them with substances to getting them to leave an existing facility to qualify for another because they have relapsed, there is no limit to what a patient broker will do. You can expect them to troll A.A. meetings, rehab hubs, and detox facilities to surveying coffee shops and other places recoveree’s frequent.

Even if you are recruited to a top care institution with exceptional physicians, treatment plans, and all of the bells and whistles you could ask for, at the end of the day, you or your loved one is still at a place that paid for that spot and who is more invested in your insurance premium than your recovery.  

Sober Homes

One of the main places you may find a body broker lurking around are sober living house or “sober homes.”

A sober home, as defined by scholarly journals, is an alcohol and drug-free living environment for individuals attempting to abstain from alcohol and drugs.

These living situations are meant to be safe havens for someone fresh out of a treatment center without a stable, alcohol and drug-free living environment to go to, as destructive living environments can derail recovery for even highly motivated individuals.

However, in many cases, they’ve turned into the feeding grounds for brokers who use money and drugs to prey on and lure on them as new clients for facilities.

The dilemma is that some sober homes are not licensed or funded by state or local governments, and the residents themselves might pay for costs. The result has been a virtually absent legislature with zero oversight and regulation of sober houses.

Sober homes are an innovative approach to aftercare, as it’s essential to have continued support when you return home, but don’t allow yourself to be susceptible to the gimmicks just because you’re vulnerable.

Research the facility’s aftercare programs, if they even have an aftercare program, and check to see if they’ve gotten in any trouble with brokers in the past because body brokering is real, and it’s happening every day.

We want you informed so it won’t happen to you. 

Body Brokering In Real Life

The body brokering business is sinister — ruthless, even. One case scenario that highlights this, as well as the corruption in both the legal system and the recovery industry, is the 2021 court decision of Dylan Walker.

The Orange County Register reported that although Walker pleaded guilty to 62 counts of patient brokering, he would not be serving the 62 years in prison he was facing nor even a single day. 

After being charged for recruiting drug users for unnecessary surgeries — as in, they were implanting devices that deliver drugs to reduce opioid craving whether they used or not — he signed a plea deal that reduced the felony charges against him to misdemeanors. His sentence: one year of informal probation and $267,483 in restitution.

Like all brokers, Walkers wasn’t trying to help anyone fight addiction; all Walker wanted was to fraudulently bill insurance companies. According to prosecutors, some insurers were giving out $40,000 per surgery, allowing him and ten others to run it up to nearly $7 million in 2018.

Places like South Florida, which have become a mecca for drug treatment, are a gold mine for brokers, as there are millions to be made in billing patients for unnecessary treatment and tests.

Back in 2017, the Palm Beach County Sober Home Task Force arrested and charged more than 30 operators of addiction treatment centers and sober homes for body brokering, resulting in then U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions arresting Eric Snyder, who was the owner of Delray Beach rehab center, which, prosecutors say, billed insurance companies for more than $58 million.

Whether you’re looking to go back into rehab, looking for the first time, or looking for a loved one, be sure to follow the money and do understand that not every treatment center is the same.

At White House Detox and Recovery, for example, we lean heavily on the spiritual side of things. Similarly, places that do not require insurance could be a safeguard to seek out too. 

II. Why Body Brokering Takes Place

Recovery is An Industry Too

So what’s the driving force behind body brokering? Well, it’s the theme we’ve been talking about all month — the recovery industry’s dark side.

Because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires insurers to pay for all substance use treatment, including drug testing, it unintentionally created an addiction gold rush, sending bad faith characters into the recovery community to take advantage of people in recovery and exploit them for their insurance.

Especially being that market is as lucrative as it’s ever been. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), far more Americans were dying from drug overdoses during the pandemic. Furthermore, CDC data reported this year show that drug overdose deaths top 100,000 annually for the first time, driven by fentanyl.

Now there are millions to be made in billing patients for unnecessary treatment and tests by unethical treatment facilities. Depending on which facility you decided to go with, you could have gotten billed for a $20,000 drug test you never gave or have your insurance information passed on or sold without your knowledge.

According to a February peer-reviewed study published in the journal Health Affairs, many for-profit rehab programs charged inflated fees and used misleading sales practices to attract patients without evaluating their actual medical needs. Further research has found that the sales pitches at for-profit clinics often focus on things that have nothing to do with medical care.

These unethical traps and snares are imperative to be read up on If you or a loved one are desperate to find help and seeking out a facility. Unfortunately, you can easily end up borrowing money and maxing out credit cards just to pay for rehab.

The combination of a highly unregulated and greedy addiction treatment industry and vulnerable families and people who need help right away has created a cesspool that must be addressed and addressed right away. 

Government Regulation?

Federal and local government has done fraud like body brokering, but most of it has been reactionary.

Florida, for example, is one of the few states who’ve tightened regulations on rehab programs. The sunshine state just saw over 50 defendants convicted for health care fraud, including substance abuse treatment facilities, after charging insurance companies $308 million in fraudulent claims.

However, they’ve come with little or no meaningful oversight. You can still find rehab programs that are “accredited” by private companies that review their operations in exchange for a fee. In fact, the Health Affairs study told NPR many rehab programs still use hard-sell marketing practices and that the ones with accreditation were the ones more likely to recruit patients without complete clinical evaluations.

How Can We Solve Body Brokering?

Studies say that because substance misuse has traditionally been seen as a social or criminal problem, prevention services have not typically been considered a responsibility of health care systems.

This separation of substance use disorder treatment and mental health services from mainstream health care has, in turn, created many of the obstacles that are present in recovery today, including body brokering.

However, an integrated system involving SUDs and mainstream health sectors will likely lessen the intensive and costly needs that come with SUDs, just as it does for patients with other severe diseases and conditions. Until these two wings of health care integrate, disparities like body brokering will continue to slip through the crack.

When SUDs and mental health are taken as seriously as traditional health care, there will be more supervision and enforcement in the recovery sector as well as new methods all around. From improved medical homes and innovative clinical approaches, like SUD treatment medications being prescribed in primary care settings, to identifying and preventing substance misuse problems.

Additionally, the American College of Physicians and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) now recommends the integration of substance use-related and mental health services with primary care.

But it would be best if you didn’t wait until the powers that be get their things in order. Whether you’re looking for a treatment center for yourself or a loved one, there are methods you can do for protection. 

III. Beating The Body Brokers 

Understanding Aftercare

Aftercare is essential, as it lowers your risk of relapse and increases your chances of successfully maintaining long-term sobriety. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that aftercare treatment “enables people to counteract addiction’s powerful disruptive effects on the brain and behavior and to regain control of their lives.”

Aftercare, also known as continuing care, is especially beneficial for those who have previous instances of relapse, multiple attempts at sobriety, co-occurring or dual diagnosis, chronic anxiety, or another mental health disorder. Furthermore, aftercare facilities, when done right, are essential in utilizing local services to support your recovery after you return home.

However, as previously discussed, these are also ripe feeding grounds for body brokers. But just because these scam artists lurk around the safe houses and aftercare facilities that substance abuse disorder clients in recovery typically reside doesn’t mean you have to be anxious or afraid about seeking such treatment.

By being smart and informed about aftercare, what you may need for aftercare and what aftercare means for you, you can set yourself or your loved one up for success to avoid getting duped by a body broker.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) lists four main aspects of aftercare:

  1. Personal health
  2. A safe home environment
  3. Finding meaningful activities to pursue
  4. Building up positive and hopeful relationships with people around you and in your community

So, before you allow anyone one talk to you about enrolling into a treatment center for the first time, transferring to a different center, or about what your loved one may or may not need, these talking points must be a part of their language. Not what insurance you have or your history of past facilities, but instead you on a human level.

It’s also helpful to know that not all safe houses or means of aftercare look the same. So when someone is telling you about a facility, be sure to ask if they have alternative modes of treatment, not only for something that best tailors you but as a sign of the establishment’s legitimacy.

Some examples of aftercare services include one-on-one and group therapy sessions, local 12-Step meetings or other self-help groups, medical check-ups, prescribed medication for managing symptoms, and participating in activities like volunteering in your community.

Everyone is different, so what one person finds helpful and invaluable may not affect someone else. It’s in your best interest to try out various support options and adopt the ones that you find most meaningful.

Ask The Right Questions

Another way of beating body brokers is by asking the right questions. You can never ask enough questions. Here are some helpful questions you can ask if body brokers are in the back of your mind:

  • Are the specifics of this program appropriate for my needs? 
  • Does this center provide post-treatment recovery support? 
  • What does successful recovery mean to you?  

At White House Recovery and Detox, we care about both the treatment you or your loved one receives and the industry that we’ve invested our lives in. We want to show the dark underbelly of the recovery business not only because we know we represent those who are in it for the right intentions but because we feel like the innocent and the vulnerable are under attack. We’re vehemently against body brokering and challenge you to look through our various treatment modalities, which are diverse and as personal as possible, and to vet our case management and relapse prevention programs geared toward ensuring your sobriety and not intent on cycling you in the system. We welcome you to ask us the tough questions, like what success looks like for you or what we mean by meditation and mindfulness. Call us for more information and ask us all the questions you want at (800) 510-5393.