COMMITTEE EVALUATES STATE HEALTH SERVICE REALIGNMENT EFFORTS
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee today met to hear testimony from the heads of all the state health service agencies in an effort to gauge the progress of statutory department realignments across the state health system. Before the 78th Session, legislators determined that the health service system in Texas, with respect to state agencies, was overlarge and inefficient. During that session, the Legislature passed House Bill 2292, which required a comprehensive streamlining of the state system, as well as increased accountability for service providers. The major changes included limited outsourcing, implementation of call-centers, and a reduction of the number of state health agencies from twelve to five, thus reducing the amount of redundancy and overlap between agency services. At that time, the Legislature estimated that HB 2292 would result in $1.1 billion in savings in the 2004-2005 biennium without a significant impact to service availability or quality. Testimony today reflected the progress made in that regard.
Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins testified today that the realignment efforts have increased the efficiency and performance of state health services. While the realignment did not realize its billion-dollar savings goal, implementation of HB 2292 did save the state about $954 million in the last biennium. Hawkins cited delays with the implementation of a call-center to aid customers of state health services as one of the reasons for the short-fall, but asserted that the system will contribute to significant savings in the current biennium.
Hawkins also testified that the State Auditors Office completed an audit of the Health and Human Services System that showed the streamlining efforts were performed satisfactorily, with little loss in service to customers.
Department of Health Services Commissioner Dr. Eduardo Sanchez testified that the realignment of the state health system has already provided tangible benefits to the state beyond fiscal savings and quality of service. When Hurricane Katrina brought thousands of evacuees to Texas last September, Dr. Sanchez said that the new system allowed the state to respond quickly and efficiently to the huge upsurge of new residents that required health services. Later, when Hurricane Rita caused the displacement of residents in eastern Texas, again the new system allowed health services to maintain care of evacuees without losing them in the chaos. Dr. Sanchez added that many states around the nation and federal agencies have requested he speak with them and tell them why the Texas response was so successful.