Albuquerque Journal



R-Farmington, during a Senate Finance Committee meeting earlier this month.

In response, Human Services acting Secretary Kari Armijo said the agency was in the process of hiring an outside Medicaid expert and should have recommenda­tions about the new contract structure within the next 45 days.

In the time since Armijo addressed legislator­s, the state has contracted with an outside expert who will make recommenda­tions regarding the procuremen­t process and timeline, HSD spokeswoma­n Marina Piña said this week.

In her discussion with lawmakers, Armijo also said she could not discuss specific evaluation­s, but vowed to provide senators with the score sheets in question.

“There were concerns expressed about low scores in certain critical areas almost across the board on all bidders in certain key areas that are very important to the Medicaid program,” Armijo said.

She also said health insurers need to bring their “A game” in their follow-up bids.

However, she did not tell lawmakers just how close the department was to readying the announceme­nt of the new contract recipients under the state’s

Medicaid program, which were set to take effect next year as part of a rebranded program known as Turquoise Care.

The new documents obtained by the Journal show the state readied intent letters announcing the awarding of contracts for the health care insurers vying for Turquoise Care contracts less than two weeks before canceling the procuremen­t.

The documents, which include email communicat­ions involving Armijo, former HSD Secretary David Scrase and former Medicaid Director Nicole Comeaux, also show the direct involvemen­t of the Governor’s Office in the abrupt decision to not forge ahead with the prepared letters.

Specifical­ly, Armijo sent a Jan. 29 email to Teresa Casados, the chief operating officer in the Governor’s Office, that references a letter that would notify managed care organizati­ons of the state’s intent to cancel the contract process and was drafted at the “direction” of Casados two days earlier.

The email also suggested Charles Canada, HSD’s procuremen­t manager, had not yet been notified of the decision.

Procuremen­t scrapped

The state decided to cancel the procuremen­t process the same day Scrase publicly announced his retirement, but did not announce the decision until three days later — on Jan. 30.

The decision, according to Piña, in part came from the low scores the five bidders received.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, one of four providers on the state’s current Medicaid contract, scored the highest with 1,083.5 points out of a maximum of 1,815 points.

Western Sky Community Care, a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Centene Corp. and also a current managed care organizati­on, was the lone provider not recommende­d for a new contract under the previous procuremen­t, scoring a total of 1,022 points.

After the scores were shared, the governor and top staffers in her office “shared concerns” with top HSD officials about a possible disruption of services, a Lujan Grisham spokeswoma­n told the Journal last month.

But the Human Services Department previously said the reason for halting the procuremen­t process was due to the high-level departures of Scrase and Comeaux, and in order to give their successors the ability to help guide the contract process.

Comeaux has declined to comment on the issue, while Scrase said last month he did not have much insight into the decision.

Scores were low

New Mexico currently pays about $935 million in state funds to run its Medicaid program, and roughly $8 billion total when federal matching funds are included.

While the Human Services Department has withheld the submitted bids, describing them as “confidenti­al,” the agency has disclosed the final scores of the five health insurers seeking to land Medicaid contracts.

Those scores show the four highest-ranked bidders were Presbyteri­an Health Plan, UnitedHeal­thcare of New Mexico, Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico and Molina Healthcare of New Mexico.

Drafted intent letters were written for all four of those insurers, according to records obtained by the Journal.

The records also show a letter had been drafted notifying Western Sky Community Care that it had not been selected for a contract for the new Medicaid program.

While Human Services Department officials have insisted the agency still intends to pick new providers before the end of this year, some lawmakers have floated the possibilit­y of more legislativ­e involvemen­t in future instances when a procuremen­t is canceled.

“I think the Legislatur­e may have the authority to look at the RFPs and say, ‘Here are the top five providers,’” said Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup, the Senate Finance Committee’s chairman.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States