Bain Capital—the Romney-built private equity firm that extracts wealth from humanity with the alacrity of an anteater jamming its many-hooked oral proboscis into a lush ant colony—is always looking for profitable trends in the markets. And America's profitable trend today is: hard drugs.
The Boston Globe detailed this weekend how Bain recently snatched up a medical corporation to capitalize on New England's drug-addiction "public health emergency" by running more than a dozen methadone clinics for heroin addicts.
Smack has emerged as a huge cash business in the region of late, virtually paralyzing Boston and the state of Vermont, where entire families are hooked on the junk. Heads of state are pledging action, which means government assistance for addicts and families... and that means profit potential for players like Bain.
On the 2012 campaign trail, presidential also-ran and Bain brain-truster Mitt Romney touted the firm's turnaround of Staples; it's also staked its reputation on businesses like day care centers and Dunkin' Donuts. But Bain's $58 million purchase of the methadone centers by CRC Health Corp., its medical arm, suggests the firm is going long on America's jones for needles:
Heroin and prescription drug addiction is "a giant problem in Boston; it's a giant problem across the country,'' said General Barry R. McCaffrey, who served as drug czar in the Clinton administration and has been on the CRC Health board since before Bain was involved with the company. Methadone is often stigmatized, he acknowledged, but for some addicts — when it's used in combination with counseling and other treatments — the substitute drug makes a dramatic difference in their lives.
Yes, that's that Barry McCaffrey, the ex-director of U.S. national drug control policy, who's now making a mint marketing methadone to addicts for $135 a weekly pop. (In fairness to McCaffrey, he's always favored methadone expansion, even when it didn't directly benefit him. As Bill Clinton's drug czar in 1998, the ex-general even butted heads with Rudy Giuliani over the New York mayor's short-lived anti-methadone crusade.)
What's the downside? Well, it's "hard to find a good methadone clinic,'' and there's always the possibility that municipal treatment clinics could shut down for lack of funds, Boston-area drug counselor Dr. Kevin Hill tells the Globe. That could leave Bain's mills as the only game in town, able to set their own prices and health standards at will.
"The problem I find with some of the for-profit clinics is the absolute minimum required by law becomes the absolute maximum they're willing to do for their patients,'' Hill says.
For its part, Bain's subsidiary says: Bah! Bosh and nonsense. "Frankly, the way to make a lot of money in this particular business is to do it badly,'' a clinical officer for McCaffrey's outfit told the Globe. "We're just not going to do that.'' Yep, you sure can trust Bain to run a business well.