March 09, 2020

Rep. Mike Levin Slams DOJ for Lack of Enforcement on Anti-Patient Brokering Law

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mike Levin slammed the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for failing to prosecute any cases under Section 8122 of the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, a sweeping measure to address our nation’s opioid crisis that also prohibits the abusive practice known as patient brokering in the addiction treatment and recovery industries. In response to Rep. Levin’s August 2019 letter requesting information on any Section 8122 cases, the DOJ notified Rep. Levin last month that they have not identified any cases. The DOJ also misstated that the statute was enacted less than one year ago, when it was actually enacted in October 2018.

Brokers treat patients as commodities, recruiting and sending them to disreputable – and often distant – recovery residences (also known as sober living homes) and clinical treatment facilities without meaningful supervision and support in order to earn finders’ fees up to tens of thousands of dollars. These facilities often pay the client’s initial private insurance premium in order to secure lucrative reimbursement rates. Once the benefits are exhausted, many facilities eject patients, often leaving them with nowhere else to go. Brokers then push them to relapse by promising lavish lifestyles and providing drugs so they can qualify for new insurance and renter addiction treatment, generating additional fees. This despicable incentive system contributes to homelessness in our communities and results in countless relapses and deaths each year.

“The substance abuse crisis continues to devastate communities across the country, including in Orange and San Diego Counties, and we must use every tool at our disposal to ensure that people receive treatment and recovery services that are effective and accountable,” said Rep. Levin. “It is extremely frustrating that the Department of Justice has not aggressively pursued cases where brokers treat patients as commodities, exploiting them for finders’ fees with no intention of providing legitimate care. There is no excuse for their failure to prosecute these cases, particularly when we desperately need an all-hands-on-deck approach to this crisis. I’ll continue to push the DOJ to pursue these cases as we work together with local stakeholders to end abusive patient brokering once and for all.”

The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act also directs the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to develop best practices for operating substance use recovery housing. Rep. Levin wrote to SAMHSA last year urging the agency to consult local governments in the development of best practices for operating substance use recovery housing. He also organized a discussion with SAMHSA last year to discuss stakeholder consultation, incorporation of public feedback, collaboration with other agencies, and next steps. The agency finalized the guidelines in October of 2019, but Rep. Levin remains concerned that many of the guidelines are too broad for meaningful implementation.