The Board of Regents held an Audit and Compliance Committee meeting on Thursday, where the Government Accountability Office and the Office of the State Auditor discussed indigent health care at UNM Hospital.
Sarita Nair, chief government accountability officer for New Mexico, said UNM was selected for the audit because that is where the most comprehensive data on uncompensated care comes from.
The Office of the State Auditor said they received many questions seeking more transparency on understanding the impact of funds that support health care for those who can't afford it.
According to a report that was released by GAO, “The Office of the State Auditor received several inquiries seeking additional transparency,” in regards to the impact of funds that support health care for those who can’t afford it.
GOA created a Transparency Report from the audit, which shows that, between fiscal years 2014 and 2016, indigent care decreased by 50 percent.
Nair noted that indigent care includes uninsured medical emergencies for illegal immigrants, a population that is referred to as underinsured.
Josh Lewis, a state auditor, explained that the audit "tested the mathematical accuracy and schedules, tied them to the supporting details and then pulled samples from the details by patient,” which they illustrated through graphs.
Of the 270 samples, 16 or 6 percent, revealed that there was some piece of documentation missing related to the determination of whether they qualified for indigent care, Lewis said. These documents require things such as proof of income and residency.
“In many of those cases we had everything but one piece,” Lewis said.
Nair added there were multiple objectives when performing the audit.
"One was to give a general layman's understanding of health care finance,” she said. “The GAO's goal is to make auditing more accessible to the public so they have a clearer understanding of where and to what the funding is going toward.”
They also wanted to address the issue of dedicated revenue, as there is a lot of misunderstanding between Bernalillo County and Sandoval County's mill levies, Nair said.
County members are unsure whether the levies are required to be used for indigent health care or for some other purpose. According to Nair, GAO assessed how much funding is received for indigent care and how much was spent.
The audit found that while the costs of providing indigent care has decreased between 2014 and 2016, UNMH has seen 34 percent more patients — for less cost.
There is also $60 million that falls short, between the money that is strictly dedicated to indigent care and the amount of money that is spent.
This is due to the fact that Bernalillo County and Sandoval County's mill levies are not “designated or restricted for indigent health care,” according to GAOs, and the funding is put towards keeping hospitals in operation for the public.
The audit also found that UNMH was processing people who qualified for the charity program and covering them accordingly, Nair said.
Kelly Urvanejo is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Kelly_Urvanejo.