Dr. Oz Tackles Rehab Fraud & Patient Brokering In Florida

By Victoria Kim 11/10/17

A former "body broker" said he recruited people from AA meetings and sent them to these rehabs, telling them they had to get high so the insurance would pay.

Dr. Oz with the Delray Beach Police
photo credit: Sony Pictures Television

On a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Dr. Mehmet Oz dives into the world of “shady rehab centers” that prey on vulnerable people in need of addiction treatment. Many of them have popped up in Florida, said to be America’s “rehab capital.”  

“Bad actors are rigging the system for profit,” said Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg. “Parents will too often send their children down here to get help, and then the only time they leave is in a body bag.”

These “bad actors” are taking advantage of the largely unregulated rehab industry, luring new clients with free rent, free cigarettes, tropical vistas, and, of course, recovery.

But the reality is that these facilities have no regard for actual recovery, says Sara Howe of the National Council for Behavioral Health. “What is popping up now, is taking an individual and reducing them to a dollar figure,” she told Oz on the show. “It’s just sick.”

Oz breaks down how these corrupt facilities operate. They pay “body brokers” to recruit clients from across the country, enticing them with a place to use drugs where the rent’s taken care of, where they could use the extra cash to buy more drugs.

A former "body broker," who remained anonymous, said he would recruit people from AA meetings and even detox centers, so he could send them off to these facilities. He was paid thousands of dollars for his work, for four years, which he says he now regrets.

“Some of these kids that I would approach, they would be clean, they could pass a drug test,” said the body broker. “And I would tell them, listen you have to get high before you come in, because the insurance won’t pay out unless you fail your drug test.”

Billing insurance for frequent and expensive testing is a major money maker for these corrupt rehabs, explains Detective Nicole Lucas, who showed Dr. Oz around Delray Beach, Florida, a city that’s notorious for its booming rehab industry.

“They allow drug use, just as long as you attend your treatment sessions and they can continue to make money off of you,” she said. It’s all about greed and money, not helping people.

Jennifer Flory, who lost her 24-year-old daughter Alison to a drug overdose last fall, said she was unaware that the South Florida facility her daughter was living in was nothing more than a scam. That fact became even more pronounced once Alison had passed.

“I actually to this day have never heard from the facility themselves or the sober home operator,” said Jennifer Flory. “A friend of hers that was there, that got high with her that night, called me the next day and said that she had overdosed and died.”

Flory had to go to Florida herself to get answers. But still, no one would return her calls, no one would talk to her. “At first I thought it was just some type of…sick joke, a mistake, or something. But I actually had to call the medical examiner’s office to confirm that it was true,” she said.

Her total bill for Alison’s addiction treatment came to $1.3 million over an 18-month period.

The grieving mother shared some red flags that may indicate that a rehab center may be too good to be true. “Free rent isn’t helping the person in recovery become a responsible person. Free cigarettes is not helping them either,” she said. “Trips to the nail salon. Scuba diving. There should be no incentive to go get treatment other than the treatment itself.”

Sara Howe shared some tips on how to find the right rehab center for your needs.

For additional drug addiction and recovery resources, visit http://www.doctoroz.com/article/drug-addiction-and-recovery-resources.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr