Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) help thousands of New Mexicans to put food on the table and receive healthcare. But who is to blame when those who are most in need are denied these critical services? Apparently, no one knows.
Back in May we brought you news from a Las Cruces courtroom that top Health Services Department officials invoked their Fifth Amendment rights more nearly 100 times when testifying about widespread fraud within that department. A half dozen HSD employees testified that they had been ordered to falsify applications by adding spurious assets to applications so that they could be denied by the department. Their superiors refused to answer any questions.
Yesterday their boss, Governor Susana Martinez appointed Secretary Brent Earnest, testified that he didn’t know anything about the accusations from people under him until after it became public back in April. And on top of that, the internal investigator for HSD that was supposed to turn in his own findings before Wednesday, apparently hasn’t even interviewed as many as 10 top officials within HSD! This includes those three people who kept pleading the fifth back in May.
The point of the hearing was to assess whether or not an outside, independent monitor should be appointed to oversee Medicaid and SNAP cases within HSD. Lawyers for HSD made the case that the department is capable of appointing someone from within to oversee the beleaguered office. Lawyers from the Center for Law and Poverty, however, contend that an outside monitor is needed. Considering that no one from the top of this Martinez backed list of administrators is willing to take responsibility, seems like the right thing to do.