Marco Rubio is just as tired as you are of the ubiquitous commercial where a man in blue scrubs urges families beset by drug addition to call for treatment options.
As Congress seeks to stanch an ongoing, nationwide opioid crisis, the Florida Republican is trying to crack down on companies that make money every time a distressed parent or family member tries to find a drug treatment clinic to help a loved one become clean.
Rubio is set to introduce a bill in the next two weeks that prohibits drug addiction call centers from making money off every patient referral without verifying whether the treatment provider is reputable, and changing the system to reward companies that have a track record of getting people clean.
Currently, call companies can receive a small commission from the treatment centers for every caller they send their way, about $50, a pittance when various treatment clinics can reap $40,000 or more in insurance claims when someone goes through treatment for drug addiction. Unscrupulous treatment clinics can also tap into insurance money by routing addicts to labs that charge thousands for routine drug tests. The labs and "sober homes" where addicts reside while in recovery then get a cut of the insurance money in what amounts to a kickback.
The companies that run ads like the "man in blue" ad, a staple of late-night television, make money for every call they farm out to a treatment center, regardless of whether the caller ends up paying for treatment or if the addict becomes clean. Critics argue the companies that farm out calls to clinics aren't concerned with the patient's specific needs and best path to recovery.
Rubio said the current system treats addicts and their insurance plans as cash cows.
"Too many Americans suffering as a result of the opioid epidemic are exploited by illicit actors seeking to make a profit from addiction," Rubio said in a statement. "My bill will help stop the cash flow for middlemen involved in illicit sober homes and paid referrals. I remain committed to addressing this important issue that has left no part of the state untouched."
The kickbacks for government-run insurance plans like Medicare and Medicaid are already illegal. Rubio's bill would extend the anti-kickback provision to people who have private insurance, including Obamacare plans.
"The federal government has not done enough because this problem continues to be enabled and exacerbated by well-intended federal policies," said Palm Beach County state attorney Dave Aronberg, who has set up a task force to investigate the drug addiction recovery industry that flourishes in South Florida.
Read more here.