Commentary: The New Mexico Senate’s President Pro Tem, Mary Kay Papen, and other leading advocates for people struggling with behavioral health illnesses and challenges today condemned Governor Susana Martinez’s veto of bipartisan legislation to protect providers of behavioral health care who are falsely accused of fraud by the State. The measure – subjected to a pocket veto – would have guaranteed that in the future, providers who stand accused of fraud will receive the opportunity to review allegations made against them, and the chance to respond in an administrative hearing and in district court. That opportunity did not exist by law in 2013 when 15 non-profits and firms were mostly put out of business by the Governor’s administration, only subsequently to be cleared of any wrongdoing by the Attorney General.
“I think all New Mexicans can agree that as citizens, we all have the right to due process if we are accused of wrongdoing,” said Senator Mary Kay Papen. “New Mexico’s families and providers of services to vulnerable children and adults in need of critical mental health and substance abuse treatment are deeply disappointed today in the Governor’s veto of this important bill. All this legislation sought to do was ensure transparency and independent analysis in these situations when it is needed. What has happened during the last four years in behavioral health in New Mexico must never occur again.”
Patricia Romero, Chief Executive Officer of Easter Seals El Mirador, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Governor vetoed this important legislation that would ensure due process for healthcare providers. More than 30 percent of New Mexicans are now Medicaid eligible. But healthcare professionals are reluctant to provide services based on the behavioral health experience. This presents a crisis in our ability to provide access to healthcare. It is a sad day for New Mexico.”
SB 217 responded to the disruption in care which began in 2013 when the Governor’s administration leveled charges of overbilling and fraud against the long-standing treatment providers under Medicaid. Even though the Attorney General’s Office subsequently cleared all of them of the allegations, there are still large gaps in accessible coverage across the state, and the State has never returned more than $11 million in payments owed to the providers from that time.