Patient Brokering Investigation Leads To Arrest Of Treatment Center Exec

By Zachary Siegel 12/29/16

An investigation into South Florida’s addiction treatment industry has uncovered incidents of insurance fraud, sex abuse and human trafficking.

Money in exchange for a house.

Last October, James Kigar, CEO of Whole Life Recovery located in Boynton Beach, Florida, was arrested on patient brokering charges, a third degree felony. But dozens more allegations were filed against Kigar on Dec. 20, totaling to 95, according to The Palm Beach Post

Prosecutors allege Kigar paid sober home operators to send residents to his Whole Life Recovery center for outpatient treatment, allowing Kigar to cash in on their insurance policies. This practice violates Florida statute 817.505, which prohibits patient brokering. 

Patient brokering is becoming increasingly common within the addiction-treatment field, according to industry professionals. 

The unethical, illegal practice takes many forms. It most frequently occurs when treatment providers pay “marketers” to funnel clients with top-shelf insurance policies into their programs. Depending on the client’s insurance policy, treatment providers have been known to pay $500 per referral to marketers. 

Kigar has pleaded not guilty, “and will continue to do so,” David Frankel, Kigar’s attorney, told the Post. Kigar was the first treatment operator arrested as a result of a two-year-long investigation into South Florida’s addiction treatment industry. Dozens of other operators and marketers have been arrested on insurance fraud and brokering schemes since October. 

Investigations into the patient brokering problem by the Post helped ignite a 37-page grand jury report that detailed how widespread and ugly the practice is. The alarming report found evidence of, among other crimes, sexual abuse, human trafficking, forced labor and insurance fraud. 

The grand jury report, which called for 15 recommendations to help clean up the industry’s act, recently caught the attention of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who wants the federal government to see whether the report should change laws across the country.

Citing the Post’s “Generation Heroin” project, Rubio said, “It’s shocking to realize that in 2015, more people died in Palm Beach County from opioids than in car accidents.” 

“Seeing the faces of these 216 victims drives home the incredible toll this epidemic is having in our state,” Rubio said, “and makes it clear the disease of drug addiction can visit any family at any time.” 

Rubio, however, missed critical votes in the Senate that would have reined in Big Pharma’s spending power and expanded access to addiction treatment. Rubio also missed voting on the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, perhaps the most important addiction treatment bill to be up for a vote in decades. 

Rubio did vote in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act, which provided funding to tackle the opioid crisis that CARA lacked. 

Thanks to the Post’s dogged reporting, corrupt treatment operators are being arrested and politicians now have the issue in their crosshairs. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.