LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- As the opioid epidemic increases in California, more and more fake facilities are preying on desperate patients.
These so-called rehab centers are taking advantage of patients while bilking insurance companies.
Former patients and a local lawmaker are trying to stop the abuse.
At a meeting with California Senator Ricardo Lara (D) Bell Gardens, addiction recovery advocates described the dirty and growing practice of patient brokering.
"People get bumped from facility to facility and people get kickbacks for that, " Lara said.
The founder of the Breathe Life Healing Centers, Brad Lamm, said oftentimes he's left to pick up the pieces.
"People are very, very sick and seek treatment from people who are unable to give it," he said. "Imagine going to the doctor to get a cure for cancer, and it's a fake doctor."
Lamm said far too many cases of abuse and neglect are going unchecked.
"The unscrupulous operations are killing people's kids left and right," he said.
One cash cow for unscrupulous operators is over-charging and over-doing drug urine tests.
Recovery advocates said insurance companies are being fraudulently charged for unnecessary testing.
"Without medical necessity, they often test your loved one's urine and charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for it," Lamm said.
Recovering addict and now recovery activist Garret Hade said one patient he knows was tested often and never once left the facility.
He said, "When he got his explanation of benefits, there was $86,000 in charges for urine testing."
Lara said, "This patient fraud continues to be one of the largest growing problems in the state."
More people in California with addiction problems are insured, which is a good thing, but Lara said it's spawned an industry trying to profit from this vulnerable population. So he's proposing Senate Bill 1228 to stop the abuse of patients, weed out facilities offering low-quality care and put an end to this type of insurance fraud.
"It's something that is so wrong," he said. "And we're going to get this finally stopped in California."
Local lawmaker authors bill to stop patient brokering, insurance fraud among addiction patients
CIRCLE OF HEALTH