Passages Malibu Alcohol Rehab and Drug Addiction Treatment & Blue Cross, Blue Shield Anthem Medical Insurance

NOTE: I am astounded by the number of patients, family members, and past employees of Passages who continue to reach out to me with their own personal stories. Thank you all so much for your condolences, support, and suggestions. However, due to my family’s resolution of the issue, I am no longer seeking advice, and am therefore closing comments on this post. To find out what happened with this whole mess, please see my follow-up post, “Love, Closure, and What It Feels Like to Give Up.” I wish you all healing, love, and progress with your own personal closure. Thank you.


This is a cry for help.

There is no way to keep the emotion out of this blog post. My hands are already trembling, even as I’m thinking, “Don’t make it too long or you’ll lose people.” But the only way to ‘summarize’ something that’s incredibly, deeply painful is to do so brutally. Here’s the black and white of it, *as best I can manage:

In February of 2008, my brother and I sent our alcoholic father to a fancy, expensive rehab center in California. Passages Malibu was not a decision we came upon lightly. And I hate to talk money, because money is not what it’s about, but money is what it came to, so I’m not going to shy away from it. My dad was wealthy. We were able to afford this using his money. His disease had gotten so severe that I knew he was going to die soon. I even have a letter I sent him saying so – an eerie foreshadowing that the deepest part of my heart already knew. I even listed killing himself as one of the things I feared. And I was right. My dad committed suicide. But I’ll get to that later.

What I’m trying to say is this: my brother and I were out of hope. We were desperate. We were losing more and more of Dad every day, and we’d tried everything. Seriously, everything we could think of. He’d been in and out of multiple rehab programs in Texas. In-patient, out-patient. Doctors, hospitals. Jail. We’d tried moving in and babying him. Moving out and letting him “learn the hard way.” I mean we tried everything. At least I will always have that. That and the fact that through it all, even the darkest moments of our lives, we bathed him with love. Unconditionally.

In the midst of this despair, we came across something different. Something that wasn’t 12-step. I mean, 12-step hadn’t worked for years, so the fact that this new program hinged on a different foundation seemed promising. We read The Alcoholism and Addiction Cure by Chris Prentiss. It seemed like The Answer. It seemed like a brilliant light on dark seas. It seemed like the only chance we had left to save him.

I knew it was risky. Although Passages boasted an 85% “cure rate” while most rehabs have an 85% relapse rate, that still left the potential that Dad could be in the other 15%. And it was out of state, which made me sad to think of – not seeing him at all for a full month. Plus it was ridiculously expensive. Including the $5,000 intervention fee, we paid over $72,000. Yes, you read that right. Seventy-two THOUSAND dollars. It seems extreme, but the way we saw it: Dad had the money. He was dying. He couldn’t use the money if he was dead. What else was he saving it for? So we could inherit it when he died? We’d rather have him. So we paid. I took out a loan just to cover the reservation.**

After the intervention, Dad checked into Passages on February 24, 2008. He was released with a clean bill of (physical and mental) health on March 28, 2008.

He drank the day he got home.

He was worse than ever. He stopped going to work. He got in a car accident (didn’t hurt anyone, thank God) in May and was sent to jail for 2 ½ weeks. He “retired” from his job of 24 years, which he loved. When he got out of jail, a forced 18 days sober, he sounded staggering drunk. I believe he had developed Wernicke–Korsakoff syndrome, better known as “wet brain” disease – but we will never know for sure. I knew, though, that he would not get better this time.

But you can never truly give up on someone you love. We scheduled him for another rehab center – this time a 12-step in-patient facility in Texas. He was signed up to go in on June 19, 2008. On June 18, he shot himself in the head.

I’m skipping it. All of it. The grief, the pain, the emotional trauma. The will, the readying and selling of his house – my childhood home. The life insurance, the inheritance, the splitting and selling of his things. His clothes. His truck. I’m skipping everything, because that’s not what this blog is about.

This blog is about Passages Malibu and Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance. I feel that we were scammed by the first and wronged by the second.

It is hard for me to believe that it has been almost four years since Passages and we still have not received a dime of our insurance money for Dad’s treatment. But there are two issues at play here, and I will try not to confuse the two.

1) Blue Cross will not cover the portion of Dad’s treatment that I believe they should cover. In fact, they won’t cover any of it. The rejected our claim (after dicking us around for years). And I quote, “At the time, there was no indication you had such severe symptoms of withdrawal, co-morbid disease, or other impairments that you required a monitored setting to treat your substance use disorder. You did not have a severe medical disorder for which you needed constant supervision while you received treatment for your addiction.”

Three general physicians with constant (failed) treatment, a psychologist, three emergency hospital trips, and countless attempts at both in- and out-patient rehab clinics apparently doesn’t cut it. They just don’t want to pay. And the real kicker? I don’t think they would have treated my dad like this. I think they’re taking advantage of the fact that my brother and I are young and we don’t know what to do. If Dad were here, this would be over by now.

2) Passages did nothing to help my dad. After dad got out and drank, one of my family members called them about his relapse. Their response was that Dad had been, “beyond help” when he got to Passages.

Beyond help? Beyond help? Then why did you take his $68,000 dollars? Because they wanted the money, is all I can see. They knew they couldn’t help him, but they admitted him anyway. And when he wasn’t better at the end of 30 days, instead of holding him longer or suggesting further care, they let him go and said he was fine. They released him knowing he was still ill. He needed help, and they didn’t care enough to give it. And now he’s dead.

How is that not a scam? At the very least, it is a despicable level of neglect.

So what is my point? Why am I writing this? It has been indescribably painful to type this up, and I’m sure it will be even harder to post for the world to see.

I need your help. I can’t do this alone. My brother and I are hurt, exhausted, and quite frankly, scared. I’m afraid of messing something up and getting caught in legal technicalities. I’m afraid to go to a lawyer because I’m afraid we’ll just get taken advantage of again. I need advice. Please, tell me what to do.

Here’s what I’m asking:

Of Passages: We want a full refund and an apology. We want to be treated with respect. And we want you to stop taking advantage of families of people you know you can’t help.

Of Blue Cross: We want the rightful percentage of coverage for our father’s treatment. We want responses that don’t try to drown us in jargon. And we want to stop be transferred to empty departments and getting “called right back” months later.

Of you- my family, friends, readers, and strangers: I need advice. I need suggestions, trust-worthy resources to go to, and help. I feel like I’m totally alone and fighting a useless battle. It’s only partially about the money. We’ve always lived humbly and I’m perfectly happy that way. I have no problem paying my dues.

It’s mostly about the principle, as cliché as it sounds. It’s unfair to allow these huge companies to get away with ripping us off royally just because we’re two young adults with no idea what to do. It’s not right. And as silly as it may sound, they’ve hurt my feelings. I do everything in my life with integrity, honesty, and trust. The fact that anyone else wouldn’t – even big companies like these – seems like a personal insult. They need to make it right. And I’m going to do everything I can to make them make it right. And to prevent others from falling into the trap that we’ve fallen into. But I need your help.

What should I do?

Thank you all for your love, support, suggestions, and time. And I’m sorry to my family for bringing up painful memories. You guys have been so wonderful.

Here’s hoping that your holidays are happier than mine.

*This blog post is the truth as I have experienced it. To the best of my knowledge, everything is accurate, but it is all from my point of view.

**I should mention that we did do our research before we jumped into Passages with both feet. We read reviews, searched the web, checked them on rehab lists, and confirmed their Better Business Bureau status. They were hard to find as they are under “Grasshopper House, LLC,” but once we did we found that they have no complaints against them since their joining in 2002 – and still don’t.

I have intended all along to file a formal BBB complaint against them, but was afraid of running into the “spit in your food” phenomenon (shooting myself in the foot). I think it’s time though, seeing as nothing is happening anyway. Would we have done something differently if we’d seen a complaint like this when we searched? I don’t know. But you can bet that I’m going to file one.

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  • Anonymous

    I think you should contact a news organizations and get your story out there. Maybe they could do investigavtive reporting. Big bad insurance companies are always a hot news topic. And there may be other people out there who’ve had the same experiences you have but are also too afraid to speak out. You definately need a lawyer. There are lawyers out there who specialize in fighting insurance companies. I’ve even heard of ones who do pro bono work or work at a reduced cost.

    Also, maybe contact a politician. Write to the President, contact a senator, etc. again, big bad insurance companies are easy pickings, ESPECIALLY in an election year.

    • Thanks Febe. I have thought before about contacting the media. I guess this is my baby step toward that, if need be.

  • Kitty

    Sadly , I too am only a clueless 20-something, so I have no advice or approach to suggest. But if course, as always, you have my unconditional love and support. It’s absolutely hideous all that you and Robert have been through. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this blog post will be the catalyst to a just resolution.

  • Rachael Reynolds

    Annie ~ I am a former classmate of yours, Rachael (Heffer) Reynolds. My husband and I have both worked with substance abuse patients (myself as a RN and Ashton, my husband as a rehab tech). We also have some legal resources I can gather for you, all of whom can be trusted. Let me put those contacts together for you over the next few days. Is there a way for me to email this information?


  • Meryl Bazaman


    My name is Meryl and I’m friends with the amazing Febe Moss. I came across your entry through Febe’s site and hope this will help. If you go with Febe’s route, you could submit your account to Alternet.

    Here’s a link:

    Furthermore, I know you are hesitant to try legal aid but I will throw this out there for you should you reconsider. I used to work as a Program Assistant for a non profit in Galveston, Texas. One of my jobs, aside from the mundane scheduling for outreach counselors and not so mundane going into client houses for onsite counseling, was to gather community resources. We would always recommend Lone Star Legal for free/low cost in state legal aid.

    Here’s their link if you are curious:

    I am genuinely sorry for your loss and hope at least one of these resources will help you.


    • Anonymous

      Yes! Thanks meryl.
      This reminds me, my mom is a social worker. I’ll email her a link to this blog entry and see what she would reccomend as well.

      This must go viral! I hate when an injustice like this has been done.

    • Meryl, thank you so much. These are two resources I had never heard of before. I will definitely look into them. I really appreciate your help.

  • Judy McLarty

    Dear Annie, here’s the link to the article I mentioned:

    • Hi Judy. What an article, wow. Thank you for sharing that with me. I think it’s ironic that it was originally published just one week after my dad died. If only it had come out a few months earlier, I would have seen it in my original research of Passages. I don’t know if we would have acted differently in sending my dad there, since we were indeed desperate and out of options, but it definitely would have given me a heads up about what to expect. Either way, I’m glad it’s there now, and I’m glad that this post is there now too, for those searching the web, trying to decide whether to send a loved one.

      I can’t tell you how relieving it is to read this: “If Passages Malibu determined they were unable to help your Dad when he arrived, they should have sent him home immediately.” It just feels nice to know that someone agrees with me and backs up my views. So thank you very much for your comments, the link, and your condolences. It really means a lot.

  • Hfaldet3

    I know you posted this awhile ago, but i somehow stumbled upon this blog while searching for dry sockets! haha
    Anyhoo, i just thought i’d share my experience with you.
    Ill try to make a looong story, short.
    2 years ago, my brother’s “son-in-law’ was sent there. He was suffering from all types of mental illness, and addiction.
    After a 3 week stay, they called my brother and told him his “son-in-law” couldnt stay, that he was outta control and hard to handle. They told my brother that this son-in-law needed to be transferred into another hospital facility.
    Basically, what they were asking, was for my brother to transport the son to the other facility.
    My brother knew this sons mental state very well, and feared that it’d be too dangerous to transport him, himself.
    He requested that the facility transport, under medical supervision. Seems only fair after all the money that was spent there! ha
    After going round and round with the facility, my brother decided to make the drive out to transport his son in law.
    On the drive from the facility-to the other hospital, the son-in-law, strangled my brother to death while he was driving on the freeway.
    We came to later find out, the facility sent him out, in full blown withdrawl stage. and no medication to help what so ever.
    So this was a disaster just waiting to happen.
    My brother is now gone, and the so called son-in-law is in prison awaiting trial….

  • BBB cannot file the Passages and/or insurance complaint because it’s over a year old (which is part of my complaint) and wasn’t submitted by the original party (i.e., Dad, which would be a real trick). We have no legal recourse because, among other things, we don’t have his full health insurance policy and can’t get it because the insurance company and his employer at the time no longer exist. The complaint is still being forwarded to Passages in the hope that they will want to make amends with us directly, but let’s just say I’m not holding my breath.

    On a final note, the BBB did say that our complaint will stay on file internally, meaning only they can see it. When I asked why, they said that if they see a pattern emerge in complaints, they will definitely take that into consideration. So with that in mind, if you also have a negative experience with this company, which is somewhat hidden in BBB under “Grasshopper House LLC,” I would encourage you to file your own complaint. If you’ve taken the time to share your story here or with me in email, it might be worth taking the time to make an official complaint as well. We might not get repercussions for them, but if enough of us stand up and speak, the BBB will take note. Change is made in baby steps.

    Thanks to everyone for all of your support. Wishing you all peace and closure.

    • Anasarca

      Big hugs, and thank you so much for the warning. It surely will help others who are considering this facility, and you have probably helped people you will never know about. My condolences on the loss of your father. Please know that you did everything you knew to do at the time.

  • Pumkin1111pie

    Hi. I wish I had a suggestion for you with regards to getting justice, but I don’t. I am just writing to thank you for sharing your experience with me. I was online researching Passages for my alcholism. I have insurance but don’t make a lot of money. I also have MS and therefore already know how cruel the insurance companies can be. If I had tried to go into Passages blindly, it could have destroyed me financially. Thank you so much for caring enough to share your experience. I’m so sorry for your loss. I will move on with my searchfor non-twelve step help.

    • I’m so glad you found my blog in your research. That alone makes me feel like sharing my story was worth it. I wish you the very best in finding a program that works for you. You’ll be in my thoughts.

  • spoons

    I am so sorry to hear such a heartbreaking story my prayers go out to you and your family. Unfortunatly you have expeirenced the ultimate pain of addiction. I also have expeirenced suicide casued by addiction as well as unintentional overdoes that led to death. The pain of addiction is really unlike any other pain caused from other diseases cause its every rotten thing imaginable all rolled into one. You and your brother really wanted to help your dad and did everything in your power to do so. Ive seen the commericals and I know their scam dosnt work yet here I am looking up imformation about their book. Its because when a loved one struggles with addiction for years on end your willing to try anything. Your story is the reason why I wont be getting the book. I hate to hear stories of innocent people being victimized in a time when they are so vunerable. You should not be intimimidated in any way shape or form to complain to the BBB,, if anything your complaint will keep other addicts who are so desperatly seeking a cure to try passages malibu.. Im sure that there are also ways to make formal complaints to your insurance company as well. i understand your points about lawyers, but not all are money hungry leeches. If you do some research Im sure youll find attorneys who have dealt with passages in the past. Your story could change the way they are allowed to operate and change the minds of people who were considering paying a small fortune to be scammed.

    • I did file a complaint with BBB, although they said it was beyond their scope. I am comforted by the fact that many people researching Passages have come here, read my story, and decided to keep looking for the help they need elsewhere. My heart goes out to each and every one of them. As you said, addiction is a horrible, horrible thing. Thanks so much for your support.