HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro just announced that his office has entered into a settlement with a Tennessee-based addiction treatment provider for deceiving thousands of Pennsylvanians.
According to a release, the settlement, in the form of an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC), addresses concerns that Freedom Healthcare of America, LLC, (Freedom Healthcare) used deceptive marketing tactics for those who were seeking addiction treatment for themselves or their loved ones.
“The opioid epidemic continues to plague Pennsylvanians across our state and people seeking treatment for themselves or loved ones have a right to straightforward information,” Shapiro said. “Deceptive practices prey on Pennsylvanians who simply seek to overcome the grips of addiction.”
According to the AVC, the company misled Pennsylvanians to pick their treatment centers “all for the company’s monetary benefit.” It also mentions that Freedom Healthcare’s website misrepresented to the consumer that it was an impartial third-party resource.
Further details mention that their website used the name and information of other third-party treatment providers that they neither own nor operate. They placed their phone numbers near the other providers’ information without adequate branding, according to the AVC.
Additionally, the settlement said that their website funneled consumers to what were called “treatment specialists” for a consumer to call for assistance in deciding which treatment provider to use. This terminology implied that the website was a third-party referral site that would provide independent and informed recommendations to those in need of treatment.
These supposed “treatment specialists” had no particular training or experience and referred consumers almost exclusively to the company’s own treatment providers.
They are paying a total of $100,000, including $88,000 to be allocated for a Pennsylvania nonprofit providing financial assistance for addiction treatment. The company also agreed to the following measures with respect to its future business practices:
- A prohibition on violating the Consumer Protection Law.
- A prohibition on misrepresenting to consumers that the company is a third-party and otherwise prohibiting the company from using deceptive terms in its advertising and marketing.
- A prohibition on providing compensation for patient referrals.