Alibi V.25 No.14 • April 7-13, 2016 


Health Sciences Center Under Fire

News City
Robert Maestas

The University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center faces a congressional investigation by the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives for their alleged use of fetal tissues in their research. More, specifically, members of the committee were interested in knowing if fetal tissue was bought or sold. The investigation, which is now in its second round, includes depositions from two UNM faculty members and some documents related to their research. The Health Sciences Center (HSC) will not release the names of the faculty members, stating, “Such disclosure would expose our employees and students to serious risk of harm.” UNM HSC denied any involvement in buying or selling fetal tissue. Officials there claim the fetal tissue was donated by women who gave their consent. Lieutenant Governorr John Sanchez posted his opinions on the matter to his Facebook page on Saturday, April 2. He condemned the HSC and the University of New Mexico for any involvement in the harvesting or testing of infant body parts. Sanchez claims Southwestern Women's Options, an abortion clinic, partnered with HSC in the research. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the HSC terminated any involvement with the clinic back in December.

Agave Out of New Mexico

Agave Health Inc., a behavioral health company that serves more than 10 cities and counties in northern New Mexico, announced on Friday, April 1, that they will be closing their doors at the end of June. The company was created in 2013 by Southwest Behavioral Health Services, Inc., an Arizona-based company. Agave was one of five out-of-state companies New Mexico officials contracted to replace 15 mental health companies accused of Medicaid fraud in 2013. They are the third of five such contracted companies that have shut down or left since being brought into the New Mexico healthcare system. Agave cited lower rates being paid through Medicaid—as well as other hardships—as reasons for the closing.

The Attorney General's Office recently cleared all of those 15 companies of any impropriety. Consequently, 10 of the 15 cleared companies are now suing the state Human Services Department for due process and contract violations, reports the Santa Fe New Mexican. The New Mexico HSD denies the allegations and is filing countersuits in return. Interestingly, HSD and Agave are already planning to help patients make a smooth transition to new state-approved providers. Kyler Nerison, spokesman for HSD said, “Our top priority in any transition is maintaining uninterrupted care for those who need it and protecting access to behavioral health services for consumers.”

The reason for Agave's closure has much to do with Medicaid services and payments. Many New Mexicans rely on Medicaid and this year Medicaid went through a huge funding shortfall. According to published reports, Medicaid funding fell about $86 million short; but the number is actually closer to $417 million when missing federal matching funds are added to the equation. This shortfall is one of the reasons healthcare providers are being paid less to treat patients who have Medicaid. New Mexico's growing enrollment in Medicaid and rising drug costs are some of the reasons why the funding for Medicaid has been unable to keep up with patient needs.