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Policy: Entitlements

New Mexico sued over developmentally disabled services

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Education,Associated Press,Health Care,Medicare and Medicaid,Entitlements,Susana Martinez

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Family members and legal guardians of developmentally disabled New Mexicans sued Gov. Susana Martinez's administration Wednesday over cuts in services.

The lawsuit filed in federal district court seeks to restore the services lost by individuals and stop the administration from continuing with changes implemented to control costs in a Medicaid-funded program serving about 4,000 people.

One of the main disputes is over a new method for evaluating recipients to determine their level of services, which can include 24-hour residential care as well as occupational and speech therapy.

The lawsuit said 700 recipients have challenged the accuracy of their assessments and categories of care they were assigned. The new evaluation system uses "vague, subjective and arbitrary criteria and procedures," the lawsuit said, and violates the due process rights of recipients.

Once a recipient is assigned care based on their evaluation score, "they are tied to a limited base budget and menu of available services without regard to individual medical need," the lawsuit said.

Family members of recipients, the Arc of New Mexico and Disability Rights New Mexico, a nonprofit advocacy group, brought the lawsuit against the Health Department and the Human Services Department.

Health Department spokesman Kenny Vigil said the state has been able to expand coverage to more individuals by bettering controlling costs. More than 6,000 New Mexicans are on a waiting list for services.

"Others may wish to go back to an obsolete system that left so many of those in need without the help they deserve, but we do not," Vigil said in a statement.

The Obama administration approved the state's overhaul plan in 2011 as a Medicaid waiver, and Vigil said the transition to the revised program should be complete by May.

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