Learn / How to Avoid Common Addiction Treatment Center Scams
Your time in rehab should be focused on getting well. And in many treatment centers, it will be. Reputable rehab facilities are designed to help patients as they enter recovery. And after you complete the program, you’ll be ready for whatever comes next.
Unfortunately, many rehab centers take advantage of people. They’re more focused on making money than on helping you heal. Some even commit insurance fraud, lie about their services, and employ unqualified staff.
There’s good news, though. If you know what to look for, you can spot and avoid several common scams. Here’s how to protect yourself, and get the help you need as you begin recovery.
Patient brokering is, unfortunately, a common practice in the addiction treatment industry. This is when a 3rd party gets paid for helping a rehab find new patients. Also known as “body brokering,”1 this scam is like a commission model—but the patient is the product being sold. This practice has been illegal since 2018.
The process often starts with a phone call from a recruiter. Once they have you on the line, they might recommend a disreputable rehab facility in another state,2 or try to sign you up for a program right away. They might even offer perks if you sign up, or say they’ll cover the cost of travel.
Recruiters don’t always call you. Sometimes, they wait for you to call them. A lot of online ads have numbers for “treatment centers” that actually go to call centers. And if you call in, the agent will just connect you to the highest bidder. From there, they’ll try to sign you up for their program immediately, whether or not it’s a good fit.
If you run into patient brokering online or by getting a spam phone call, it’s pretty easy to avoid. But it can also happen in other ways. Even doctors and therapists can get kickbacks for referring patients to rehab. That’s why it’s important to do your own research.
Once you’re in treatment, some of these unethical rehabs try to commit insurance fraud.4 They might inflate the bill to your insurance company, or add unnecessary steps to your treatment plan. Some order daily drug testing even when it’s clear that you’re sober. And if your insurance refuses to pay, you might have a bigger problem. For example, you could get kicked out of rehab—a process called “curbing.”
Be wary of any rehab center that enrolls patients in a new insurance policy.5 This might seem like a good deal—and they might even offer you free treatment. But these centers often lie about your address so it looks like you live in a different state. They’ll also pick plans with larger reimbursements, so they can make even more money. And when the insurance company finds out the truth, you might be liable.
Some treatment centers make claims that simply aren’t true. These might appear as testimonials or interviews. In one case, an Indiana center offered a man free addiction treatment in exchange for singing their praises of one center in a YouTube video. In a follow up interview, he said the rehab program didn’t work for him6—and that he started drinking again soon after it ended.
Some addiction treatment centers entice patients to enroll with money,8 gifts, free flights, or other amenities. They’ll use these prizes to convince patients to start treatment, stay in rehab, or move to their facility.
When you’re researching different centers, you can also look for good things. These green flags can indicate that a rehab is trustworthy.
There are plenty of facilities that put you first, and genuinely want to help you heal. You deserve that level of care. Don’t settle for a rehab that offers anything less.
Compare addiction and mental health treatment centers and reach out directly to their staff for answers to your questions about pricing, insurance, specializations, and more.
Reviewed by Rajnandini Rathod
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