AG won’t release full health audit

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The office of Attorney General Gary King is refusing to release an audit that flagged 15 New Mexico health organizations for problems including overbilling and possible fraud.

Citing the exemption to the state’s Inspection of Public Records Act (IPRA) that lets governmental agencies keep some law enforcement records secret, the AG’s Office (AGO) denied New Mexico In Depth’s request for the full audit on Monday.

That puts King’s office – which is responsible for teaching government agencies to comply with IPRA and investigating complaints of violations — in direct conflict with the N.M. Foundation for Open Government (FOG). The sunshine group told NMID last week that the law enforcement exemption doesn’t apply to the audit and said the state must release the document.

“A financial audit isn’t a typical law enforcement record, like a police report,” said FOG’s executive director, Terry Schleder. “Just because the (Human Services Department) handed their audit over to the AG, that doesn’t automatically convert it into a law enforcement record.”

The AGO released on Monday emails related to the audit and a portion of the document detailing the auditor’s approach. The latter had already been released by the Human Services Department (HSD).

HSD has also refused to release the full audit. The AGO and HSD have provided NMID with portions that summarize the audit and detail its scope and methodology, but not sections that would detail specific allegations against each of the 15 organizations it accused of problems.

FOG says both the AGO and HSD are required by law to release the full audit publicly.

Both agencies also initially refused to release the audit to State Auditor Hector Balderas. Once he agreed to a court order preventing him from disclosing it in response to public records requests, Balderas was given a copy.

Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration has frozen Medicaid payments to most of the 15 providers while the AGO investigates, even though federal regulations give the state flexibility in deciding whether to suspend payments. The administration has said it had no choice, but federal regulations say a state can decide whether freezing funding is in the best interest of the Medicaid program.

Some advocates say stopping payments has put some of New Mexico’s most vulnerable citizens at risk by threatening critical services such as drug abuse and suicide counseling.

The state is working to transition services provided by organizations that collapse without Medicaid funding – Southwest Counseling Center in Las Cruces became the first this weekend – to five behavioral health providers from Arizona that have contracted with HSD to fill the gap in New Mexico.

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