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Warnings Issued About Recovery ‘Patient Brokering’

It’s a sad fact. But just like any industry, recovery patients can often fall victim t0 harmful scams. It actually feels like a worse jab for people in our field because those in need of addiction treatment can be vulnerable and easy prey. Bad treatment practices recently made headlines again, with the arrest of actress Lindsay Lohan’s father, Michael, over his alleged participation in recovery “patient brokering.” To us, that felt like a prime opportunity to make people aware of these unethical practices.


For reference, patient brokering involves middle men getting kickbacks for referring addicted patients into treatment facilities. Lohan happened to be arrested in Palm Beach, Florida, where these practices are more commonplace. In his case, he is accused of receiving more than $27,000 in illegal commissions. It is also worth noting that several of the facilities called out have also been charged with performing fraudulent tests on patients in the hopes of raising their insurance bills.


Now whether Lohan is found guilty is a matter unto itself. But the truth is, patient brokering is happening and it is harming the reputation of legitimate recovery clinics around the country. It is unethical and illegal for health care providers to pay a commission for the referral of patients. Palm Beach County State Attorney David Aronberg emphasized that fact when speaking about the Lohan case.


“Patient brokering corrupts our health care system because decisions are motivated by greed instead of a patient’s needs,” Aronberg told the press. “Mr. Lohan was investigated by our Sober Homes Task Force and he’s being charged with receiving kickbacks for referring patients to drug treatment.”


Another site from Pew Research covered the story and offered some helpful warning signs when it comes to these types of scams. “Brokers” tend to seek out people in recovery-related chat rooms or even at in-person events. They can troll social media sites as well, sending unsolicited messages encouraging a person to follow them into a recovery facility. They usually claim to be in a program themselves and encourage secrecy in their conversations.


As Pew points out, this is a sensitive topic for many addicted people. Many are filled with shame and avoid bringing up their problems with family or friends. The brokers know this and use unethical tactics to lure people into programs, often offering free airline tickets or some type of cash incentive. Please know that these are all red flags to avoid when seeking out treatment. Proper facilities will never offer you money or freebies to join a program and they most certainly won’t reach out to you via an unknown third party representative.


We encourage everyone to be safe and thoughtful when choosing a recovery path. And if possible, bring loved ones into the conversation so you’re not going through the journey alone.