E&C Continues to Examine Reports of Financial Kickbacks for Luring Vulnerable Patients into Questionable Treatment Facilities
WASHINGTON, DC – Bipartisan Energy and Commerce Committee leaders sent letters on Tuesday to eight call aggregators, who play a role in connecting individuals seeking treatment to sober living homes. The letters pose several detailed questions about the business practices of these call aggregators, and request information about how their employees are trained, as well as what they disclose to callers about any affiliations with treatment centers.
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), #SubOversight Chairman Gregg Harper (R-MS), #SubOversight Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO), #SubHealth Chairman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), and #SubHealth Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX).
The letters are the latest step in the committee’s ongoing bipartisan investigation into patient brokering, the practice of individuals serving as intermediaries and profiting from the recruitment of patients seeking treatment for addiction. Reports about such behavior have shone a spotlight on vulnerable patients being wooed by free rent or manicures, while patient brokers receive financial kickbacks.
“One of the ways that patient brokers can generate leads on potential clients is through phone hotlines that connect to call centers or call aggregators,” wrote the bipartisan leaders. “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 prescreen 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 bipartisan leaders also wrote, “As the opioid epidemic has ravaged the country, individuals with substance use disorders who are vulnerable and desperately in need of help have continued to search for treatment options. The business of advertising and recruiting for substance use disorder treatment requires greater scrutiny, and those battling addiction deserve a safe and dependable environment when seeking treatment.”
The committee first examined reports of patient brokering in July 2017, when bipartisan committee leaders sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services. In November 2017, 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 #SubOversight hearing examining fraud and abuse in the drug treatment industry.
Click HERE to read the letters.