By Lisa Campanella, Senior Policy Analyst at New Jersey Resource Project

We’re fighting for a world where people with substance use disorder are treated with dignity and respect. Our communities need improved access to the evidence-based care they deserve, which includes proper education about their options, the freedom to choose what path they want to take, and support for their choices. 
Unfortunately where there is a public crisis, there is often profit to be made by those in power. An ongoing state investigation by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation found that some recovery institutions have been engaging in body brokering.

Body brokering, also called patient brokering, is a type of health care fraud committed by detox and rehabilitation centers looking to turn a quick profit. People who run these centers offer a variety of financial incentives to treatment professionals (like recovery coaches and sober living house owners) to refer them clients struggling with a substance abuse disorder – often across state lines. But there’s a catch: folks who have private, comprehensive health insurance are targeted so these centers can rake in a bigger insurance payout. These centers will then bill the clients\’ insurance company for what are often unnecessary, duplicative, or inappropriate treatment and tests. People looking for help are often referred through a revolving door of short, ineffective inpatient stays while bad actors rake in profits.

Body brokering comes at a massive cost to people’s ability to recover from substance use disorder – and although it’s illegal under both federal and state law, as far as we know, nobody has been prosecuted under the state body brokering statute in New Jersey. In order to improve the protections currently in place, Not One More recommends that New Jersey:

  • Begins implementing its patient brokering statute ASAP;
  • Expands the law so it covers multiple types of financial incentives that fall through the cracks of the current statute – like donations and grants, in addition to direct payments made in exchange for referrals;
  • Encourages U.S. attorneys to apply federal anti-kickback laws (like EKRA or AKS) more vigorously when prosecuting cases of body-brokering.

Interested in learning more? Here’s my full breakdown on the investigation\’s findings thus far, and what more needs to be done to hold bad actors accountable:

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