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Copyright 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico)


The cost of health care for the University of New Mexico athletics department is about to double.

And it has nothing to do with what's going on with politicians in Washington, D.C.

The Journal has learned the department did not pay the $263,062 it owed the UNM Health Sciences Center for various services for student athletes during the fiscal year 2015-16. So it will double its payments this fiscal year, which started July 1, according to the university.

"There was an issue with the internal billing from the Health Sciences Center to Athletics in FY-16," UNM interim athletic director Janice Ruggiero told the Journal in an email Tuesday. "The Athletic Department did not receive the bill that would have triggered the $263,062 payment for that year."

Essentially, UNM athletics did not pay the contractually agreed upon amount because it was never billed for it.

It is unclear when it was discovered, but once athletics was told it owed the money, "Both departments began working to correct the error," Ruggiero wrote. "The Athletic Department is scheduled to repay the balance in FY 18. At no time did the billing issue result in a gap in coverage or care for our Student Athletes."

Ironically, the athletics department announced last week it is trying to collect $432,000 in money from boosters who rented out suites in the Pit since 2010 but didn't pay for various reasons, including many who were never given a bill for the money they owed.

UNM athletics and UNM Health Sciences Center had a "Memorandum of Understanding" that covered the past three years of medical services for student athletes.

That agreement expired June 30, but an addendum was recently signed by Ruggiero for a six-month extension ensuring athletes will be covered through Dec. 31 as a new deal is being negotiated.

"The University's Athletic Department maintains an agreement with the University's Health Sciences Center to ensure excellent and timely medical care and treatment for our student athletes," Ruggiero wrote.

Such agreements have been in place since 1998.

The addendum Ruggiero released to the Journal on Tuesday states the parties agreed to the six-month extension to "avoid disruption of service" while the negotiations are taking place for a new agreement.

"The parties are actively engaged in discussions related to this MOU that include, among other things, improvements to the physical space, additional clinical services and operations," states the addendum.

The agreement calls for athletics to pay $391,812 annually for medical services ($263,062 to UNM Health Sciences Center and $128,750 to UNM Medical Group, which apparently was paid on time). The $391,812 owed annually will be prorated for the six months under the new agreement.

The agreement covers UNM's 22 varsity sports and the "Lobo spirit squads."

The agreements stipulates that the following services, among others, will be provided:

  • MRIs or X-rays for injured athletes
  • Preseason physical exams and lab tests
  • On-site "clinics" and training room services from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, from one hour before to one hour after all home football games, and 1-3 p.m. on Sundays
  • At least one Health Sciences physician for all home games/meets for all sports
  • The athleticsdepartment must provide all "Lobo attire" to the team physicians
  • Health Sciences will provide hospitalization for any injury or illness incurred while playing or practicing the student athlete's sport
  • 12 hours per week of physical therapy/rehabilitation as needed

The athletics department reported a $1.54 million deficit for fiscal year 2016, which seems to indicate the actual deficit that year was at least $1.8 million had the $263,062 bill to Health Sciences been paid on time.

The money owed for that fiscal year was not planned for on the current fiscal year's budget.

Ruggiero took over as interim AD on June 5 after the retirement of former AD Paul Krebs.

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July 19, 2017


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