Investigation Finds That Rehabilitation Clinics Need Rehab

Dead clients, substance abuse for the sober, and bribing the poor were just a few of the fraudulent practices of California’s drug rehabilitation program for Medi-Cal patients identified in a new report from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

According to the report, California’s drug rehabilitation program for the poor is “cheating taxpayers by billing for counseling that never happened.” In some cases, the center found examples of “pressuring staff to forge and falsify paperwork to pad bills.”

In the past two fiscal years, $94 million paid to 56 Southern California clinics in the Medi-Cal system showed signs of deceptive or questionable billing, the investigative report found.

The report notes:

  • “One Inglewood clinic fabricated notes and billed for ‘ghost clients’ who never came in. They couldn’t show up, a counselor discovered: Some were behind bars; one was dead.”

  • “In the underbelly of the Drug Medi-Cal program, clinics pad client rolls by diagnosing people … with addictions they don’t have. They round up mentally ill residents from board-and-care homes to sit in therapy sessions they can’t follow. They lure patients in from the street by handing out cash, cigarettes and snacks. They have patients sign in for days they aren’t there.”

  • “Under pressure to diagnose teenagers with fake addictions, counselors at the clinics reverted to racial stereotypes. … They labeled white teens as alcohol drinkers and black or Latino teens as marijuana smokers.”

The report notes that California has the largest population of people who qualify for public drug rehabilitation programs offered by the Department of Public Health Care Services. During the past two years, the state spent $186 million on the program, which doesn’t include rehab expenses spent on methadone and heroin addicts, which are covered under a different branch of Medi-Cal.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the report notes, the population of people who may be eligible to qualify for such services likely will grow. (Source: Center for Investigative Reporting, July 31.)

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