'Poachers' target addicts to make money

Poachers are working to get people into addiction recovery programs, but not for their health – it’s lining the poachers’ pockets.

PHOENIX - Fraudulent activity in the health care industry at a national level made headlines, but in our state, potentially shady behavior is going on too.

It's called patient brokering, and it’s a way to get more patients into rehab -- but not necessarily for their benefit.

"Patient brokering is completely different than marketing,” said Angie Green, the founder of Addiction Haven, an addiction and recovery advocacy organization.

She said a broker gets paid commission for finding patients for a clinic or rehabilitation center that hires them, even if the patient is not the right fit.

"What works for one might not work for another,” said Geren. “So, you need to made sure that facility fits.”

In a report on Sunday Night with Megyn Kelly, a recovering addict said she was paid to go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to find patients to recruit.

"We would have to drive around, and anybody with like suitcases, we would have to ask them, 'Do you have insurance? Do you have a place where you can go?'" said Mercedes Smith of Florida.

Smith was previously a patient poacher, someone who gets into the system to meet other addicts to recruit as patients.

Green is working hard to fight this type of activity. She said it makes it more about making money and not treating a person with a problem.

Patient brokering in not an illegal act in Arizona.

A bill was introduced by state leaders to make it against the law this past legislative session, but the bill went nowhere.

Geren said she sent a letter to the governor, the attorney general, the Maricopa County attorney and others urging them to do something about this

"Kids are dying, and they're not getting well," she said. "They're not going into quality treatment. It's not getting any better."

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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