IL House OKs Bill Targeting “Patient Brokers” Exploiting Opioids Crisis

(Springfield, IL) – Bipartisan legislation that targets out-of-state “patient brokers” taking advantage of Illinois residents struggling with opioid addiction and other behavioral health crisis by marketing expensive, questionable ‘treatment’ services  has been approved by the full Illinois House.

The measure, House Bill 4949, zipped through the House 110-0 last week.

The legislation seeks to prohibit marketers from falsely encouraging patients and families to seek treatment outside of Illinois, which would result in out-of-network expenses and travel costs.

“Scam artists marketing unscrupulous drug treatment providers have mushroomed since the opioid crisis exploded in Illinois, and they’re preying on desperate families seeking to help a loved one overcome their addiction,” said Illinois Association for Behavioral Health C.E.O. Sara Howe. “This legislation bans the tactics that are driving patient brokering, such as barring marketers and patient brokers from seeking kickbacks and referral fees in exchange for directing patients for mental health and substance use disorder treatment.”

State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) is sponsoring the bill.

Howe, who testified before lawmakers in behalf of the bill, said the patient brokers specifically target families with private insurance and aim to run up out-of-network expenses. She cited a case to lawmakers of an Illinois woman, 26, who had travelled to Florida for drug treatment but ended dying from a drug overdose but not before her insurance company had paid more than $1.3 million to the treatment provider.

“In the case of the Illinois woman who died in Florida, the so-called treatment provider had, for example, been performing three drug tests per day, way over the industry standard, for the sole purpose of running up the bill,” said Howe. “These type of facilities, which are marketed as ‘beach front locations; are also advertising that an individual can continue using drugs while in treatment.”

In addition to prohibiting referral fees, Feigenholtz’s plan would require marketers located outside of Illinois to inform patients and families that free or low-cost treatment services may be available in Illinois and directs them to the Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health and Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse for more information.

Importantly, the legislation would also require that marketers inform consumers whether the facility offers services that could be covered by an Illinois insurance or managed care plan and if they are in-network of those plans as well as note that free or low-cost treatment services may be available in Illinois.

“Patient brokers operate like predators, pushing unscrupulous drug treatment programs on families who are desperate to find treatment for opioid addiction and mental illness for their loved ones,” said Feigenholtz. “HB4949 will shut down these deceptive marketing practices and dry up ‘finder fees’ for brokers referring patients. Illinois must end this practice now.”

The bill is now faces the Illinois Senate

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