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Legislation to Deter Substance Abuse Treatment Centers from Patient Brokering Passes Assembly Committee

Armato, Murphy & Vainieri Huttle Bill Establishes Penalties to Curb Incidents of ‘Rehab Recruiters’ Capitalizing on Substance Abuse Patient Referrals

With the opioid crisis surging, legislators, insurers and health care providers have all been taking meaningful steps to better connect victims with treatment services. Current law, however, has left opportunity for fraud whereby profit-seeking individuals have exploited numerous people with substance use disorders and private insurers. Working to combat the problem, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats John Armato, Carol Murphy and Valerie Vainieri Huttle was advanced by the Assembly Health Committee Thursday.

Under the bill (A-2280), a person would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if he or she makes or receives a payment or otherwise furnishes or receives any fee, commission, or rebate to any person in connection with the referral of patients to a facility. The legislation would also hold substance abuse treatment centers accountable for any fees, commissions, or rebates they pay to someone for the referral of a patient to their treatment facility.

“Right now, there is open opportunity for people to quite literally get paid, by-the-bed, to fill substance abuse treatment centers across the country. These people posing as recruiters are using bribery, promising gifts, money, all-expense-paid travel, food and even drugs to potential patients,” said Assemblyman Armato (D-Atlantic). “It’s an unethical, sophisticated scam that cannot continue. Substance-abuse victims and their families are suffering the most. This legislation takes corrective action in helping prevent New Jersey residents from falling victim to the tactics of these bad actors.”

The penalties stipulated in the bill, as enforced by the Department of Human Services, specifically serve to target payments that vary based on the number of patients referred; the duration, level, volume, or nature of substance abuse treatment services provided; or the amount paid by health carriers to treatment facilities for services.

“I find it highly concerning that there are people out there making a profit off those who have a substance use disorder,” said Assemblywoman Murphy (D-Burlington). “Not only are these brokers simply out to make money rather than help struggling members of the community, but they are knowingly sending people to facilities with very little – if any – real treatment. This practice is harmful to their recovery process and may leave them feeling as if no one can help them.”

“Nothing about our country’s opioid crisis has an easy solution, yet these selfish ‘body brokers’ and treatment centers only complicate our efforts even further,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “By acting only in their own self-interest, they are hurting vulnerable people who need a helping hand. This legislation will help end this fraudulent practice and get our residents struggling with substance use disorders the assistance they need.”

The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.