WASHINGTON, D.C. — Continuing his efforts to combat the nationwide opioid crisis, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) today examined potential fraud and abuse within the substance use treatment industry. Today’s hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where Walden serves as Chairman, comes following a year-long bipartisan investigation into patient brokering. Patient brokering is a practice through which individuals are paid by treatment facilities for successfully enrolling people suffering from addiction in their treatment programs.
During the hearing, Walden stressed the need to ensure patients and families are not taken advantage of when seeking treatment for opioid use disorder.
“In December, this subcommittee held a hearing examining patient brokering and addiction treatment fraud where concerns were raised about deceptive and sometimes predatory advertising and marketing practices within the treatment industry,” said Walden. “In addition, we’ve read news reports, spoken to treatment facilities, doctors, associations, and stakeholders within the industry, but most importantly, we’ve heard from individuals and their loved ones who have faced some of these aggressive and deceptive advertising practices. In my district in Oregon, a father named Mike told me about the troubling experience he had when his son was seeking treatment for addiction. The recovery center was located in another state and seemed more interested in cashing a check rather than caring for his son.”
Today’s hearing specifically focused on advertising and marketing practices within the substance use disorder treatment industry. The increased demand for addiction treatment has created a large and complex industry, with some providers reportedly employing a host of aggressive and sometimes deceptive advertising tactics to reach potential patients.
Walden today highlighted examples of the troubling practices revealed as a result of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s investigation.
“As the committee dove deeper into the advertising and marketing practices within this industry we found a Pandora’s box of online advertisements, websites, phone numbers, lead generators, call centers, and television commercials. In some cases, an individual or company may own dozens and dozens of websites, and some of these websites contain different 1-800 numbers, despite all being owned by the same person or all leading to the same treatment company,” said Walden. “Some websites and television commercials use forceful language, such as: ‘Call now,’ ‘don’t wait any longer,’ ‘get the help you need,’ ‘talk to someone who cares,’ ‘end your addiction now,’ or ‘for immediate treatment help.’ One individual the committee spoke with shared that the person on the other end of the phone went as far to say, ‘if you don’t get your kid here now, your kid will die! .’”
Today’s hearing comes as Walden has led the Congressional response to the nationwide opioid crisis. In June, the House of Representatives passed Walden’s SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act (H.R. 6) by a bipartisan vote of 396-14. This legislation will help in efforts to combat the opioid crisis by advancing treatment and recovery initiatives, improving prevention, protecting our communities, and bolstering our efforts to fight deadly illicit synthetic drugs like fentanyl. The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act is the largest legislative effort to combat the opioid crisis in history.
Walden today said that he will continue to push forward in the fight against the opioid crisis that is still gripping communities across the country.
“The House recently passed H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, which includes 70 provisions — largely from this committee — that seek to address a number of issues within the opioid crisis,” said Walden. “But our work here is not done and the committee continues to conduct oversight because our country is far from seeing the end of the opioid epidemic and its tragic effects.”
For more information on today’s hearing, including a background memo and archived webcast, please click here.