The opioid crisis continues to worsen throughout the entire county, but in certain states more than others because the drug has become more accessible. To makes matters worse, insurance companies are taking advantage of this situation by overcharging for the drug treatment needed by those who suffer from all types of drug addictions. One of the rehab capitals of the United States is Palm Beach County, Florida. The state of Florida has a billion-dollar drug treatment industry that, according to an NBC investigation, is overwhelmed by clients who continue to overdose and increase in insurance fraud.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. The reason why people are abusing the use of the drug is because not only does it relieve pain but it produces euphoria that many become dependent on. Overdoses on opioids have continued to severely increase since 2007, especially because the drug is now being mixed with other drugs to produce other addictive effects. Family members of the drug abusers rely on drug treatment centers to save their loved ones but the outcome is the complete opposite.
Dave Aronberg, Palm Beach County’s top prosecutor and State Attorney, stated to the NBC News investigator that the entire drug treatment industry has been corrupted by the accessibility of easy money. Mr. Aronberg also explains that, the actors of this industry have taken advantage of well-intended federal law, and a lack of any good law at the state level, to profit off people at the lowest stages of their lives.
The law he refers to is the Affordable Care Act, which along with the federal Mental Health Parity Act passed in 2008, was meant to ensure people suffering from addiction could get the care they needed. People saw this as an opportunity to make a lot of money and have taken advantage of desperate people, who are usually young or dependent on their families. These scammers have also made it difficult for genuine and ethical centers to prosper because people are losing faith in the credibility of these centers.
According to the investigation done by NBC News, within a few months of a drug abuser reaching the drug treatment centers, they would call their family members stating that they had transferred to another sober home. Bills from the insurance companies kept arriving to their homes with treatment worth thousands of dollars. The bills included from medical treatments, lab tests, chiropractic therapy, and counseling. When they family members of these victims called the treatment centers to figure out why the bills were so high, the person on the other end of the phone would hang up. The insurance bills detailed charges of $5,000.00 for things like a urine test or $1,800.00 for one counseling session. One of the victims bills reached $1.2 million for only 15 months of treatment, even though they were bounced among nine different facilities.
Governor Rick Scott, officially declared Florida’s opioid crisis a state of emergency in May of 2017. Also, legislators recently passed a bill that would increase penalties for brokering. They believe this will give prosecutors sharper tools to crack down on what a grand jury last December found was rampant brokering and fraud across the insurance industry.