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State knew about kids’ Medicaid ‘glitches’ for weeks

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

The state has known since early December that “glitches” in a new computer system were inadvertently ending Medicaid coverage for some foster and adoptive children, according to emails obtained by the Journal.

The issue was not disclosed publicly until last week, when the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and the Human Services Department responded to inquiries about the matter. The agencies originally said that about 15 children were affected by the glitches; in response to inquiries about the emails this week, the estimate was updated to “under 60 children,” although a spokesman said the agencies are still in the process of identifying those affected.

The emails show several CYFD officials and employees discussing how to respond to the Journal’s questions last week. Many of the emails focus on problems with the state’s eligibility computer system: the Automated System and Program Eligibility Network, also known as ASPEN.

“Numerous glitches and problems have arisen since the December 1 enablement of the new system,” stated one email from the account of Cynthia Chavers, bureau chief for federal reporting at CYFD. “The . . . eligibility unit is now meeting daily with HSD in attempts to reconcile the numerous children that are getting kicked off of Medicaid daily.”

Chavers did not respond to a request for comment.

Another email, this one from the account of Rosaisela Burciaga, CYFD bureau chief of foster care and adoptions, described “several problems that have come about (as a result of the ASPEN issues) include children losing Medicaid eligibility inadvertently, delays in creating new Medicaid eligibilities, and name discrepancies for children whose adoption has been finalized.”

Burciaga did not respond to a request for comment.

“CYFD and HSD are working together to ensure that all of our foster families eligible for Medicaid are enrolled,” said a CYFD spokesman in a statement. “Families who believe their children were affected by the issues should contact their caseworker.”

CYFD told the Journal last week that the agency would mail a letter to the state’s foster and adoptive families explaining the issue and providing contact information for follow-up questions. A spokesman for the agency said it has since decided not to send the letters to the families of all 6,000 foster and adoptive children, but to instead contact impacted families individually as the agency identifies them.

It’s not the first time the state has encountered Medicaid-related issues with ASPEN. In August, the U.S. inspector general identified several security vulnerabilities in New Mexico’s Medicaid data after the Human Services Department migrated to the system, according to a federal report.

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