January 8, 2015

Medicaid director moving to OptumHealth

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The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported the news that Julie Weinberg will be moving to a position with OptumHealth.

From the Santa Fe New Mexican story:

Mark Johnson, CEO of Santa Fe-based Easter Seals El Mirador, one of the ousted providers, said Weinberg’s move from state Medicaid director to Optum raises ethical questions. “There certainly would be an appearance of a conflict of interest in [Weinberg] going to work for a contractor that Medicaid contracted with,” Johnson said.

A spokesman for the Human Services Department says that there is no conflict of interest.

No state personnel rules forbid someone in Weinberg’s position from taking a job with a government contractor, a Human Services spokesman said.

“[Weinberg] will work as an executive client manager with Optum — not with their health program, but on the IT analytics side of their business,” Matt Kennicott said. “And she will not be working on any Optum-related business in New Mexico.”

Kennicott also told the New Mexican that Weinberg was not on the team in charge of the changes to behavioral health system in the state.

Optum was the firm that produced the secret and controversial audit of behavioral health firms that ended up with Arizona firms taking over the bulk of behavioral health operations throughout the state. Using the findings of the audit, the state suspended funding for over a dozen behavioral health providers, causing many to stop operations.

The office of the Attorney General has cleared two of the groups and released the portions of the audit relating to those groups. However, the HSD says that other investigations into those groups are still ongoing.

Opponents of the moves have been critical of Optum, especially after emails indicated Optum pushed for a move to Arizona firms before the audit was completed. The firm also did not follow normal practices on the audits, New Mexico In Depth found.

Efforts to release the full behavioral health audit have largely been struck down by courts. In addition to the portions released by the Attorney General, a judge allowed the release of just the portions concerning Presbyterian Medical Services after a suit by the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, an open government group.

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