Marco Rubio Asks Feds To Investigate Florida Sober Homes, Rehabs

By Kelly Burch 02/12/18

The senator wants to bring multiple federal agencies together to crack down on fraud and patient brokering occurring in the state's sober home industry.

Marco Rubio

Florida Senator and former Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio has asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into sober homes and rehabs in Florida that are "bad actors” with shady practices that have led to overdose deaths. 

Rubio urged Sessions, “to the fullest extent possible—investigate claims of kickbacks and false statements associated with federal health plans” at Florida treatment centers where people have died of drug overdoses, according to NBC News.

Rubio went on to say that federal authorities should "ensure [these centers] are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for the devastation they have caused.”

He also called on the Department of Labor and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate accusations of kickbacks. He said that the Department of Health and Human Services needs a system designed "to identify and suspend all payments to disreputable treatment centers or sober homes."

The treatment industry in South Florida has come under scrutiny amid reports of patient brokering, insurance fraud, and other illegal practices. The bad practices are so widespread that Palm Beach County, where treatment is a $1 billion industry, has established a task force specifically for investigating sober homes. That task force was funded in part by state money. 

However, if Rubio’s request is granted, it would not be the first time federal agencies have looked into sober home and treatment practices in Florida. In 2014, the FBI investigated widespread insurance fraud among treatment centers in the state. The issues was so severe that Cigna stopped selling insurance policies on the Florida exchange.

In his letter, Rubio focused on the human toll of unscrupulous treatment practices.  

"The possibility of losing a loved one is already frightening enough that those seeking help should not also have to worry about unscrupulous actors posing as legitimate treatment centers,” he wrote.

Rubio specifically mentioned an NBC investigation that included interviews with the mothers of women who had died while in treatment in Florida. 

“The mothers recounted the victims being shuffled, during a brief period of time, between multiple treatment centers, excessive laboratory tests, and questionable treatments that resulted in insurance companies being billed upwards of $1.2 million,” Rubio wrote. "Unfortunately, these women did not get the help they needed and ultimately passed away after being 'treated' at fraudulent sober homes, including one called the No Drug Zone." 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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