Gov. Susana Martinez this afternoon defended her Human Services Department's suspending Medicaid funding last month for 15 behavioral-health providers and insisted that low-income clients of the providers wouldn't go without services.
Referring to the $36 million that a Boston auditing firm said was overpaid to the providers, Martinez said, "...that is a big figure. And if there is fraud, if there is waste, if there is mismanagement, then we need to make sure we take care of it. But we're also taking care of the client at the same time and not leaving them without the services while the attorney general decides what to do next."
The move to defund the providers has been criticized by some legislators as well as the president of the National Council for Behavioral health, who called it a "witch hunt."
The Human Services Department handed the audit by Public Consulting Group over to the state attorney general for possible criminal prosecution.
The audit is the subject of a lawsuit filed by eight of the providers. A hearing in that case is scheduled for Wednesday.
The state is in the process of contracting with five behavioral-health companies from Arizona. at a cost of up to $17.8 million, to fill in for the companies under investigation.
I asked Martinez why all those companies come from Arizona. She said, "They've done this before. They've been able to pick up services when there have been problems in other states. where there have been other allegations of fraud or misuse or mismanagement. ... So they have that history and certainly the proximity (of Arizona to New Mexico) is a benefit. And we want to make sure those patients have quick access."
Here's a video of the governor's conversation with reporters courtesy of Rob Nikolewski at New Mexico Watchdog.