Joseph Lubowitz was once considered a success story of addiction recovery. Unfortunately, now his testimony is marred by conspiracy and fraud.
Lubowitz, from Philadelphia, recently pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud. Prosecutors in Delray Beach, Florida, where Lubowitz was sending people to recovery facilities, said he was using people like cattle to generate revenue.
From Humble Beginnings to Guilty Pleadings
Joseph Lubowitz was a varsity athlete at Upper Dublin High School. It was in high school where he says he developed addictions to marijuana and alcohol. Following graduation from Pennsylvania State University, Lubowitz then faced heroin addiction.
Lubowitz’s recovery journey inspired him to open a rehab center called Humble Beginnings, which included facilities in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, and Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It was his goal to help other people in the same place where his struggles with drugs and alcohol began.
Lubowitz ambitiously opened his rehab centers at age 25, and within three years, he was invited to speak to elected and community officials. One of the officials was Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Lubowitz and Shapiro often appeared at events together in 2018, amid Pennsylvania’s struggles with the opioid epidemic.
Shapiro spoke about Lubowitz’s recovery from addiction and touted him as a valuable resource in a state struggling to stop the increasing opioid deaths. Shapiro held a news conference at the Upper Dublin football field in 2017, where Lubowitz had once played football. The news conference was a way to announce an investigation into the marketing and selling of opioid painkillers by pharmaceutical companies.
Unbeknownst to Shapiro, Lubowitz was, at the time, being investigated himself by Florida federal authorities. Lubowitz was receiving payments from several Florida rehab facilities — including Halfway There and Real Life Recovery — that violated Florida’s patient brokering laws.
Indictments for Patient Brokering
The term patient broker means that Joseph Lubowitz was funneling patients from his treatment centers in other states to facilities in Palm Beach County, Florida, in exchange for commission payments. Lubowitz’s patient-brokering activities were discovered as part of increasing government scrutiny of drug treatment and rehab centers throughout Florida.
Lubowitz took part in the scheme for four years and did business totaling more than $58 million. He recently pled guilty to receiving illegal kickbacks from several companies, but prosecutors say those payments were not the only ones he received.
Initially, Lubowitz claimed that the payments were part of marketing agreements that he signed with Real Life Recovery, and said that he didn’t know that the company was using patients to get more money by billing insurance companies. Federal prosecutors say Lubowitz did know what he was doing, and a custodian at the treatment center told FBI agents that the illegal billing and kickback schemes were widely known and talked about.
Fraudulent Activities in Florida
Real Life Recovery was a rehab center, while Halfway There was a sober-living house. The facilities would offer patients perks like free rent and airfare, and the facilities would turn a blind eye to clients’ ongoing substance use, as long as they stayed in treatment. At that point, the rehab center and halfway house could bill for patient treatments and tests.
As an example, when Lubowitz sent patients to Florida, they would often be given urine tests several times a week, and each test could cost up to $9,000.
Prosecutors affirmed that the scheme carried out by Lubowitz and others generated millions in fraudulent insurance billing between 2011 and 2015.
The Assistant U.S. Attorney James V. Hayes wrote in a court filing that Lubowitz was using young, vulnerable people who were desperate to get help for addiction.
While disappointing, this story of fraudulent rehab activity is just one of many others coming to light. Both private and public health insurance companies are helping policyholders get high-quality treatment for their addictions, but there are still scams, unfortunately.
If you or someone you know needs addiction treatment, don’t wait to get help. Call The Recovery Village Palm Beach at Baptist Health today. We’re here to help you get the treatment you deserve to overcome addiction.
Roebuck, Jeremy. “Once touted as a recovery success story, Philly rehab owner admits he illegally profited from others’ addictions.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 2019. Accessed July 5, 2019.
Holden, Joe. “Recovering Addict Who Pledged To Help Others Through Treatment Centers Facing Bribery Kickback Allegations.” CBS Philly, July 10, 2018. Accessed July 5, 2019.