A proposed law fining those prying on patients looking to enter treatment for opioid addiction recently passed the Assembly Health Committee.
Under the bill, a person would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if they make or receive a payment or rebate to any person in connection with the referral of patients to a facility. The legislation would hold substance abuse treatment centers accountable as well for any fees, commissions or rebates they pay to someone for the referral of a patient to their treatment facility.
“Nothing about our country’s opioid crisis has an easy solution, yet these selfish ‘body brokers’ and treatment centers only complicate our efforts even further,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen).
Vulnerable People Hurt
“By acting only in their own self-interest, they are hurting vulnerable people who need a helping hand. This legislation will help end this fraudulent practice and get our residents struggling with substance use disorders the assistance they need,” stated Huttle, one of the bill’s cosponsors with Assemblyman John Armato and Carol Murphy
Assemblyman John Armato remarked the legislation takes corrective against an “unethical, sophisticated scam“ to prevent New Jersey residents from falling victim to the tactics.
“Substance-abuse victims and their families are suffering the most,” he said. “Right now, there is an open opportunity for people to quite literally get paid, by-the-bed, to fill substance abuse treatment centers across the country. These people posing as recruiters are using bribery, promising gifts, money, all-expense-paid travel, food and even drugs to potential patients.”
The penalties stipulated in the bill, to be enforced by the state’s Department of Human Services, specifically serve to target payments that vary based on the number of patients referred; the duration, level, volume or nature of substance abuse treatment services provided; or the amount paid by health carriers to treatment facilities for services. Each violation of the bill is punishable by a civil penalty of up to $25,000.
“Not only are these brokers simply out to make money rather than help struggling members of the community, but they are knowingly sending people to facilities with very little—if any—real treatment,” said Assemblywoman Murphy. “This practice is harmful to their recovery process and may leave them feeling as if no one can help them.”
The bill now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.