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Federal agency says more New Mexicans, not fewer, received Medicaid behavioral health services

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — Federal officials say the number of people in New Mexico getting behavioral health services through Medicaid was up, not down, following a state shake-up of the provider network last year.

A federal agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said a previously reported 23 percent drop in the number of people getting services reflected only parts of the state, not the entire state, the Albuquerque Journal (http://goo.gl/qyBnN1 ) reported.

The statewide data actually showed a 16 percent increase in the number of people served, the agency said in an April 3 letter to the state Human Services Department.

The figure of a 23 percent reduction in services was contained in a Dec. 24 cover letter from the federal agency that accompanied the final report on a federal team's site visit to New Mexico in September.

State officials had disputed the reported reduction in the number of people served and asked that it be corrected.

"While some regional variation in the client census may exist, the statewide analysis clearly indicates substantially higher client counts," Secretary Sidonie Squier wrote.

Gov. Susana Martinez's administration last year cut off Medicaid funding to 15 nonprofits and replaced 12 of them with new providers.

Squier has said she froze the Medicaid funding after an audit by a Boston-based firm showed overbilling, mismanagement and possible fraud.

The April 3 letter didn't specify the parts of New Mexico where the decrease occurred, but Human Services Department spokesman Matt Kennicott said it appears the reference may be to a 23 percent drop in the number of consumers seen by one of the Arizona providers, Agave Health Inc.

Agave Health serves communities in a wide swath of northern New Mexico, from Raton in the northeast, Los Lunas to the south and Grants to the west.

A state legislator who has criticized the administration's shake-up of behavioral health providers said the latest development amounts to "arguing over ancient history."

"The issue really is now - what's going on right now - and that's what we ought to be focusing on," Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque.

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