Deadly Checks: Blue Cross Funds Seven-Day Drinking And Sex Addiction Relapse
This is another in a series of articles designed to draw attention to the public safety issues created by a Blue Cross national policy put into effect in August 2011, reportedly designed to punish health care providers who dared to not join the Blue Cross network.
Since August 2011, instead of sending payment for addiction treatment to out-of-network rehabs and medical professionals, Blue Cross has been sending payment for treatment directly to the addicts in their first days of recovery.
The checks–- often for tens of thousands of dollars –- are issued in the name of the addict. The results are horrifying. Up and down California, and across the United States, addicts have used Blue Çross funds to buy drugs, overdose and die. Addicts have also used Blue Cross checks to fund secondary addictions like gambling and shopping.
Along with addicts who “doctor shop” and “pharmacy hop” for narcotics, there is now a new category of addicts, those who purposely go from treatment center to treatment center to collect checks.
California State Senator Ted Lieu has written directly to Blue Cross telling the organization to change its policy, and Assemblyman Richard Bloom has begun a dialogue with the California Department of Insurance. Lawsuits are now making their way through the courts of California and other states aimed at getting Blue Cross to reimburse substance abuse providers for the checks cashed by their patients.
“The Blue Cross policy of payment directly to recovering addicts is both cruel and counterproductive,” said Los Angeles-based attorney Steve White who represents several California treatment centers that have sued including Malibu Beach Recovery Center. “When Blue Cross sends tens of thousands of dollars owed to the treatment facility directly to the recovering addict, everyone loses: The patient, struggling to escape the prison of alcohol or drugs, loses when tempted into a relapse. The treatment facility loses because it goes unpaid. The States and the US Treasury lose revenues because Blue Cross does not the 1099 patients. And Blue Cross loses because it is obligated to provide further rehabilitation treatment for the member.”
Booze and Prostitutes
One of the most recent court cases involves Jack (not his real name), a 50-year-old alcoholic with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for tequila and prostitutes. The first time he admitted for treatmen a prudent psychiatrist was able to understand his condition. The diagnosis was bi-polar disorder, and Jack was prescribed a mood stabilizer that in fact helped him to cope with, or avoid, the manic mood swings that were causing him to self-medicate.
Jack felt so good on the mood stabilizer that after treatment he stopped taking medication and relapsed. He returned to treatment determined to do things right. He remained there for 50 days and moved into a sober living. He went on partial disability to pay his bills.
As agreed in a legal document he signed upon admission, when the first Blue Cross check arrived he handed it over to the treatment center. Then 7 more arrived. They were so large, he says, he couldn’t help himself. He stopped taking his medication, moved out of the sober living, cashed four checks and started searching the internet for prostitutes. He says he told the first “lady of the night” he could not drink, but then agreed to “a sip” of hers. That led to marathon week of drinking, partying, and showering prostitutes with Blue Cross money. Soon he was back in treatment, the three largest Blue Cross checks lost or stolen somewhere between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Jack’s inability to stay sober after even a “sip” of alcohol reminded his therapist of the award-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins’ experience with alcohol. As Hopkins, now sober almost 40 years, once told CNN: “[When] I was drinking – I couldn’t stop. Couldn’t stop. And I was – it was like being possessed by a demon, an addiction, and I couldn’t stop. And millions of people around like that. I could not stop.”
Anthem Blue Cross of California is owned by WellPoint Health Network, a publicly traded company. Wonder how the shareholders of WellPoint Health feel about Jack’s sordid use of their funds. Wonder how the same shareholders feel about the addicts who have used their money to buy heroin.