For those of us who live in Southern California, the increasing sight of homeless encampments has been cause for both compassion and alarm. The ever-increasing number of homeless people in our area is often attributed to spiking rental rates and the increasing costs of living here. But there may be an additional explanation that we don’t often hear about or read in the news: out-of-state addicts are being lured into Southern California by unscrupulous drug and alcohol rehab operations.

Driving this trend is the California law that allows a person to sign up for an Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) health insurance plan the day that person arrives in California. Not all states have the easy signup that is allowed through the program known as Covered California. Because anyone can be covered under this plan in California, recruiters fan out across the country looking for addicts they can lure to a California rehab facility.

There are approximately 10,000 patient beds in licensed rehab centers in Southern California alone. But these rehab facilities, although they must be licensed by the state, have few state requirements. Basically, anyone can open such a facility. While many rehab centers are legitimate and offer substantive helpto addicts, many others facilities that are nothing but addict churning mills established to bilk insurance companies and skim millions of dollars for their owners.

The” recruiters,” who generally get paid for each “body” they bring to a rehab center search for addicts in other states, often at AA meetings or among the homeless. The addict is usually offered a plane ticket to California, where he or she is immediately signed up for Covered California and placed in the rehab facility. The facility then runs up massive costs to the insurance company for questionable rehab services. These bills often run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for one patient. For example, one facility, billed $1000 for each urine test, by charging for the testing and the lab analysis…by a lab that the facility owned. This inflated billing for a service that in reality cost the facility a fraction of the $1000 charge ended up in the rehab operator’s profits.

This may be fraudbut the state has only 16 inspectors assigned to monitor around 2,000 rehab facilities. While insurance companies and law enforcement agencies are investigating these practices, it continues. Often the rehab facilities operate on the edge of legal and while certainly unethical, they can continue operating and take advantage of the addicts, the insurance companies, and ultimately the California taxpayer.

In the meantime, addicts are not getting the help they need. But it gets worse. The addicts are mere pawns in this scheme. They are kicked out of the rehab center when the insurance money runs out, often cycling through again at a later date. And this is where the homeless issue comes in. Many, if not most, of these addicts who are sent back to the street—still addicted— become homeless. Whereas the addict may have been from Arizona or Wisconsin or any other state, now he or she is stuck in California with no resources to return home. Added to the out-of-state addicts, there are also California addicts who have been kicked out of these unethical rehab facilities, often leaving them to fend for themselves on the street. No one knows how many of the homeless are products of these rehab facilities but one thing is for sure: nobody is benefiting except the unscrupulous operates of these facilities.

Orange County criminal defense attorney William Weinberg is attentive to his client’s needs and compassionate about their defense. He has been defending individuals for 25 years. If you have been charged with a crime, he offers a complimentary consultation to discuss your case. You may reach him at his Irvine office at 949-474-9700 or by emailing him at bill@williamweinberg.com.