No Surprise Here: Texans’ No. 1 Health Policy Priority Is Lower Cost

Texans’ number one priority when it comes to health policy issues is lowering the amount that individuals pay for healthcare. That’s according to a statewide survey out Thursday from the Kaiser Family Foundation/Episcopal Health Foundation. Of those polled, 61 percent marked that option as a “top priority” while an additional 28 percent called it “important but not a top priority.” Just beyond that: Reducing the number of women who die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth (59% top priority/30% important but not top priority), lowering the cost of prescription drugs (56%/32%), increasing access to health insurance (55%/32%), and increasing… Full Story

BCBSTX Agrees To 60-Day Delay In Implementing New ER Claims Policy

The Texas Department of Insurance has coaxed Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas into a 60-day delay in implementing a policy that could leave some members on the hook for their entire emergency room bills. TDI Commissioner Kent Sullivan met with BCBSTX President Dr. Dan McCoy on Tuesday—with other representatives from both sides also in on the meeting—to discuss the new rules, according to a spokesperson for TDI. The department on Thursday sent a letter requesting more information on the change. BCBSTX notified members in April that HMO members visiting out-of-network ERs could be on the hook for their entire… Full Story

Texas Joins Five Other States In Suing OxyContin-Maker Purdue Pharma

Texas is one of six states to say Wednesday that it’s suing drug-making giant Purdue Pharma over its role in fueling the opioid crisis. Attorney General Ken Paxton announced his office is joining five other AGs, who also announced intentions Wednesday to go after the OxyContin-maker with similar lawsuits. Paxton’s office alleges that the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act for using deceptive marketing tactics while it knew the dangers of opioid addiction. “As Purdue got rich from sales of its opioids, Texans and others across the nation were swept up in a public health crisis… Full Story

Richardson Man Convicted By Federal Jury In Scheme to Defraud Dallas Medical Center, Others

A 50-year-old Richardson man was convicted for his role in a scheme in which several co-conspirators impersonated Cerner Corp. employees to bilk millions of dollars from victims including the Dallas Medical Center, which paid more than $1 million for a new MRI system that never came. Suresh Mitta, who also went by Suresh Reddy or Mitta Suresh, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Albert Davis, 57 and also of Richardson, pled guilty to taking the lead role in a separate case and was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison a year ago. Davis… Full Story

Before Layoffs, Clinic Closure, Metrocare Quietly Issued CEO A Two-Month Extension

Metrocare Services and CEO John Burruss have inked a short-term contract extension while the Dallas County behavioral health agency considers a longer term deal. Metrocare and Burruss agreed on the deal in late March, extending Burruss’ contract through June 30, according to documents obtained through an open records request. The contract had been set to expire on April 28. The largest mental health provider in Dallas County, Metrocare has had a difficult last 18 months, including the recent news that it will lay off more than 40 people, close a clinic, and freeze salaries for executives, administrators, and managers. In… Full Story

Head of Texas Health Commission Out Amid Procurement Problems

Charles Smith on Thursday announced his retirement as the state’s top health official, ending a two-year run bookended by issues with the agency’s contracting process. Tommy Williams, a former state senator who is currently serving as a senior advisor under Gov. Greg Abbott, will take up the post on an interim basis when Smith vacates at the end of the month. Smith was named executive commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission in mid-2016, after the discovery that the agency had awarded a contract without going through the formal bidding process. That scandal had forced out the former… Full Story

Dallas County’s Struggling Mental Health Provider will Implement Layoffs, a Clinic Closure, and a Salary Freeze

Metrocare Services will lay off more than 40 people and close another clinic as Dallas County’s largest purveyor of mental health services tries to steady itself after a financially torrid 2017. Metrocare CEO Dr. John Burruss notified staff on Monday in an email. He said executive, administrative, and management salaries also will be frozen “for the foreseeable future.” According to a source close to the company, the number of people impacted by layoffs could be as many as 60. That would be about 7 percent of Metrocare’s 900 employees. The agency serves more than 57,000 people and is budgeted to… Full Story

Report: Texas HHSC Procurement Process Has Slowed Amid Controversy, Firings

The procurement process at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which has been under intense scrutiny as of late, has been slowed down, according to the Houston Chronicle. Sources at three HHSC-reliant departments told the paper that “most procurement has been put on hold.” That follows a revelation earlier in April that contracts had been awarded to the wrong companies because of what the agency said was an issue with the scoring tool used to rate the bids. It pulled previously awarded contracts to the likes of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Driscoll Children’s Health Plan, Texas Children’s… Full Story

Texas HHSC Official Steps Down Over Contract Issues

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission reached another milestone in its ongoing contracting saga this week, as Chief Operating Officer Heather Griffith Peterson resigned after two years on the job. The agency’s procurement issues are well-documented and not new, stretching back to former commissioner Kyle Janek’s 2015 resignation after the revelation that the agency had awarded a contract without a proper bidding process. Gov. Greg Abbott came in vowing to clean things up. But the scandal renewed earlier this month when the scoring tool used to rate bids apparently wasn’t doing so properly, leading the state to fire three… Full Story

Dallas Group Says Healthy Texas Women Site is Rife With Providers Who Aren’t In the Program

A group of muckraking East Dallas women say the state’s Healthy Texas Women website is loaded with providers who’ve never had a hand in the program, making it difficult for women to find their way to the physicians who do. The group, called “East Dallas Persistent Women,” put out a study today that shows 66 percent of providers listed on HTW’s site aren’t actually providers of the program. That’s based on a statistically representative survey of 54 counties in Texas. For the study, a dozen volunteers made nearly 1,500 calls over two months, asking the listed providers whether they accepted… Full Story