Attorney General Maura Healey has sent a letter to doctors who provide addiction treatment services through the state’s Medicaid program, MassHealth, warning them against unlawfully charging people struggling with opioid addiction and vowed to take immediate and aggressive action against those who try to illegally profit off of vulnerable patients in Massachusetts.
MassHealth providers are required by law to accept payments from MassHealth as full payment for substance use treatment services. Suboxone and other formulations of buprenorphine are used to treat opioid addiction by suppressing withdrawal and cravings for opioids.
The AG’s office has brought numerous criminal and civil enforcement actions against MassHealth providers who solicited and received cash payments from MassHealth members for covered addiction treatments and continues to actively investigate and prosecute such cases throughout the state.
“Providers who illegally charge patients for opioid treatments could be adding to the death toll caused by this epidemic,” Healey said in a statement. “This extra cost can prevent those struggling with addiction from getting assistance that could save their lives. Our office is sending this letter as a warning to providers that those imposing extra charges for Suboxone treatment will be prosecuted.”
“There is no place in Massachusetts for addiction treatment providers who prey on MassHealth clients in desperate need of treatment,” Michael Botticelli, executive director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine, said in a statement. “The AG continues to take strong action to protect the health and safety of Massachusetts residents.”
Opioid overdoses kill on average more than five people every day in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health estimates that more than 2,000 people – the highest number ever recorded in the state and a 17 percent increase from 2015 – died from opioid-related overdoses in 2016. Massachusetts has lost over 5,000 people to opioid overdoses in the last three years.
Last month, Healey announced that her office has expanded an ongoing investigation into the marketing and sale of opioids to include multiple manufacturers of branded painkillers and three major drug distributors to help uncover the roots of the epidemic.
The AG’s office also worked with the Legislature and DPH to create a state fund that allows our cities and towns to buy Narcan at a heavily discounted price, and is working to keep that fund as a resource for as long as it is needed.