Sun News: Newspaper enabled behavioral health tragedy

Heath HaussamenWhile I and other journalists documented the damage caused by Gov. Susana Martinez’s freeze of behavioral health providers’ Medicaid funding in 2013, her administration deflected blame.

With possible over billing and so-called “credible allegations of fraud” in hand, the state’s Human Services Department (HSD) said Obamacare required freezing the 15 organizations’ funding during criminal investigations.

Their claim was little comfort to the tens of thousands of people who had medical services disrupted and, in some cases, eliminated. HSD’s claim was also false.

When government acts destructively, journalists have a duty to question, to dig, to find truth and speak it. Some of us did. Federal regulations “give the state discretion in deciding whether to suspend payments and risk disrupting patient care, according to experts, federal regulations and documents,” the news organization New Mexico In Depth reported on July 11, 2013.

In other words, HSD “could have chosen not to abruptly suspend all Medicaid payments” while still initiating investigations, NMID reported.

At the time I was an editor at NMID and assisted on that story, which should have been a game-changer in the public’s understanding of what was happening.

Then came the Albuquerque Journal’s editorial board.

Those “protesting” the Medicaid freeze “are targeting the wrong people,” the editorial board stated on Aug. 1, 2013. “The requirement to suspend payments where fraud is suspected is part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act.” Continue reading article.

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