In spite of massive bipartisan legislation passed by Congress in 2018 to address the nation’s opioid use disorder (OUD) epidemic and cut down on illegitimate practices, the Department of Justice (DOJ) hasn’t prosecuted a single “body-brokering” case.
In the addiction treatment industry, body-brokering occurs when people — body brokers — seek out individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) and refer them to treatment homes for a finder’s fee. Gifts and perks are often used to entice patients to enroll in the programs.
The DOJ confirmed last month that it has prosecuted zero body brokering cases since President Trump signed the SUPPORT Act in October 2018. The news came five months after a group of congressional lawmakers sent a letter to the DOJ asking how many cases it had gone after.
Body brokering, also referred to as patient brokering, has been outlawed as a result of the SUPPORT Act.
“We have queried the United States Attorneys’ Offices’ case management system and have not identified any cases,” DOJ assistant attorney general Stephen E. Boyd said in a response to the lawmakers.
Rather than providing sufficient OUD and SUD treatment, providers who participate in body brokering often use unethical practices designed to make them the most money rather than help the most people.
For example, some providers will give patients drugs so they fail drug tests or purchase premium insurance for patients in order to get optimal reimbursement, only to discharge them when they are no longer lucrative.
Body brokering has become especially problematic in recent years, as the nation’s addiction treatment market has taken off. Current estimates put the addiction treatment industry at a $42 billion market, with more than 15,000 providers in the space, according to financial data firm MarketResearch.com.
“The revolving door between detox centers, treatment facilities, sober living homes and back again generates huge money for operators who know how to game the system,” the California newspaper the Orange County Register reported in 2017.
The DOJ, in its response letter, said that it was not surprised about the lack of body brokering convictions, as the law against it is fairly new.
Convictions for body brokering carry a maximum of 10 years.
“The Department takes seriously the need to investigate and prosecute illegal practices such as [body] brokering and will carefully consider charging violations… in appropriate cases,” Boyd said in the letter.