Former behavioral health providers and lawmakers spoke out against Gov. Susana Martinez and her administration Monday afternoon over a shutdown of behavioral health providers in 2013. They spoke after a letter from the Attorney General’s office announced an investigation found no fraud from another ten behavioral health providers, bringing the total to 13. Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque, a former social worker, said the results are relieving, but came too late. “The news that the Attorney General has exonerated ten more of the agencies accused of fraud two years ago was very welcome but unfortunately comes about two years late,” Ortiz y Pino said during a press conference. He praised the work from the AG’s office since Balderas took over, but also criticized former Attorney General Gary King for not taking swift enough action on the investigation.
Nearly two years after a Medicaid funding freeze sent New Mexico’s behavioral healthcare system into a tailspin, the full Senate on Tuesday lent bipartisan support to a bill meant to stave off such crises in the future. Senate Pro Tem Mary Kay Papen, D-Las Cruces, sponsored HB 55, which she said will improve the way the state deals with healthcare providers. Responding to questions from Sen. Gay Kernan, R-Hobbs, Papen said the primary differences between her proposal and the paradigm in which the state’s been operating boil down to a few key words: transparency and due process. Current law, said Papen, “is tilted in favor of state, and it’s calculated to make providers’ responses onerous.”
For example, when the state Human Services Department conducted an audit of 15 behavioral health providers back in February 2013, the results pointed to problems including Medicaid overbilling and possible fraud. The state’s response was to immediately freeze payments to all 15 affected agencies.
The Human Services Department is the part of the executive branch that is tasked with deciding what “credible allegations of fraud” are for organizations that use Medicaid funds. New Mexico learned that after the funding was cut off for 15 behavioral health providers following an audit in 2013. The audit remained largely under wraps until Attorney General Hector Balderas released the audit on Thursday afternoon. New Mexico Political Report asked the Human Services Department for a reaction to the news. Here is the emailed response from department spokesman Matt Kennicott, in full:The AG is the investigative entity.
Former Human Services Department secretary Sidonie Squier is leaving the state and spoke to the Santa Fe Reporter. The Reporter also wove in some emails with some comments Squier wrote that showed she was not an ideal match for either the state or the Susana Martinez administration. She described herself as a “red girl” and New Mexico as “a very blue state.” But she didn’t match up well with the pragmatism of the Susana Martinez administration on issues like expansion of Medicaid, as found by emails that the Reporter obtained through the Inspection of Public Records Act. From the Reporter:In an April 2012 email, Matt Kennicott, spokesman for the department, wrote to Squier that Gov. Susana Martinez was “too afraid” to speak out against the federal expansion of Medicaid through President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.