I am writing today to announce the closure of the New Mexico Independent. After three and a half years of operation in New Mexico, the board of the American Independent News Network, has decided to shift publication of its news…
Feds to investigate allegations state hindered Medicaid fraud investigations
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)’s Medicaid Integrity Group intends to investigate allegations the Human Services Department (HSD) hindered Medicaid fraud and elder abuse investigations by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud & Elder Abuse Division, CMS spokeswoman Mary Kahn told The Independent.
“We plan on conducting an inquiry into this situation with the state Medicaid agency,” Kahn said.
HSD and the state Health Department administer New Mexico’s $1 billion Medicaid program.
The Medicaid Fraud Division reported that HSD and the Health Department had withheld, “filtered” and “sanitized” information and documents requested by investigators, hindering numerous investigations. The allegations were made in the Fraud Division’s 2009 annual report to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But the Inspector General’s office alerted the Medicaid Integrity Group to the 2009 allegations only last week, Kahn said, following inquiries by The Independent.
Similar allegations were also reported in the Fraud Division’s 2008 annual report, The Independent has confirmed.
“We have not heard from the CMS Medicaid Integrity Group, but of course if they contact us we will work with them to address any questions they may have,” HSD Spokeswoman Betina Gonzales McCracken said Monday.
HSD was “surprised by the allegations,” McCracken told The Independent last month.
But the Medicaid Integrity Group was “already aware of similar allegations related to the state’s relationship with its Medicaid Fraud (Division)” in 2008, Kahn said.
Following its May 2008 review of the state’s Medicaid program, the federal Medicaid Integrity Group ordered HSD to prepare a plan to correct violations of several federal regulations, according to a report obtained by The Independent.
“The State is not in compliance with federal regulations related to required disclosure and reporting requirements,” the report states. Among the violations described in the report was HSD’s failure to report fraud to the state Medicaid Fraud Division, “limiting the ability of the (Division) to prosecute fraud cases.”
The report also faulted HSD for failures to screen Medicaid providers for criminal convictions or to verify patients actually received the care for which Medicaid was billed by health care providers.
The HSD is required to track all cases of suspected Medicaid fraud and abuse, but was not doing so at the time of the 2008 review, the report states.
“HSD has implemented the Corrective Action Plan,” McCracken said Monday.
The concerns raised by the Medicaid Integrity Group’s 2008 review were addressed in the Plan and were different from subsequent allegations raised in the Medicaid Fraud Division’s 2009 report, McCracken said.
“We were unaware there were any further issues that needed to be addressed,” she said. “In light of the (Medicaid Fraud Division) report, we will work with the AGs office to address any issues that might still exist.”
On Monday, the state Senate voted to override Governor Bill Richardson’s pocket veto last year of a bill that would require state agencies to share Medicaid and other program data with the Legislative Finance Committee.