Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey sued a North Andover treatment center on Wednesday over allegations it unlawfully profited off patients seeking treatment for opiate addiction.
The lawsuit was filed against the Center for Psychiatric Medicine (CPM) in Essex Superior Court, alleging the center has charged hundreds of patients cash fees for Suboxone treatment since October 2010. The medication is covered by MassHealth and is used to treat addictions to narcotic opiates, Healey said.
“We allege this treatment center knowingly took advantage of patients by forcing them to pay exorbitant and unnecessary fees for opiate addiction services,” Healey said. “Comprehensive and affordable treatment is critical for those struggling with addiction. This medical practice imposed illegal barriers for hundreds of patients desperately in need of help.”
According to the suit, patients were charged as much as $325 for a first visit, and between $150 and $200 for subsequent visits, even though they should not have been charged at all. MassHealth reimbursement would have given CPM between $15 and $75 for those claims, Healey said.
Medical providers are only allowed to accept payment from MassHealth for services to a plan's members. CPM staff allegedly told new patients they couldn't accept MassHealth for the treatment and the program was cash only, according to the lawsuit. The cash payments allegedly totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars from patients.
The complaint seeks to recover restitution for the patients as well as civil penalties and court costs. A preliminary hearing will take place on Tuesday.
“MassHealth members will suffer irreparable harm, namely, potential withdrawal symptoms, and potential relapse and renewed illegal use of opioids because of the lack of Suboxone treatment for their opioid dependency,” the complaint said.