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

UT Southwestern Receives More Than a Third of Latest Round of CPRIT Grant Funding

UT Southwestern Medical Center has been awarded $27,827,022 in grant funding, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas announced last Wednesday. Through 22 awards, UT Southwestern received 38% of the $73.5 million in total grant money disbursed. CPRIT spread the money across 57 payments to 11 different institutions. UT Southwestern had received 258 taxpayer-funded grants through CPRIT prior to this round. “Texas taxpayers’ support of CPRIT furthers research by UT Southwestern basic scientists, physician-scientists, and clinical investigators to learn more about how cancer occurs, to develop improved cancer therapies, and to step up prevention efforts,” Dr. Carlos L. Arteaga… Full Story

Despite Turnover, Red Ink, and Other Issues, CEO Says Metrocare Services Has Been ‘Enormously Successful’

Dallas County’s largest provider of mental health services sold its software division at a significant loss, divested properties, and saw at least two high-ranking executives head for the exits during a financially tumultuous stretch over the last year. The financial situation got so bad at Metrocare Services that, for a time, the agency ran out of prescription stock and had to send patients elsewhere, the result of vendor relationships put on pause due to the agency’s inability to pay. The difficulties at Metrocare, a government agency that serves more than 57,000 people at various facilities across the county, stemmed from… Full Story

Former Children’s Health CMO, Texas Ebola ‘Czar’ Gets a Job with the HHS

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ new assistant secretary for health is a formerly Dallas-based pediatrician who did a stint as chief medical officer at Children’s Health. He also served as head of Texas’ task force on infectious Disease Preparedness and Response during the Ebola scare. The Senate confirmed Dr. Brett Giroir to the spot last week in a move that largely went unnoticed, despite Democrats previously voicing disapproval for the Trump nominee. Giroir earned his MD through UT Southwestern and later served there as a professor; a representative said he was last affiliated with the school around… Full Story

The State’s CPRIT Program Comes with Risk, But One of Its Top Dogs is Optimistic

Since the state of Texas put $3 billion behind the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) a decade ago, much of the news coming out has been less than flattering. After lawmakers questioned potential conflicts of interest at the program, state auditors discovered issues with regard to the way a small portion of the grants associated with the $3 billion fund were handed out. Not a good look, to be sure, but the taxpayers who’d originally backed the institute might have found it easier to move past the problems had the news been balanced by, say, the development of… Full Story

Yep, Dallas’ Medicare Acceptance Rate Really Is Low Compared to Other Markets

Thanks to the alert D CEO Healthcare readers at Dallas-based Merritt Hawkins, we have some additional context to our post yesterday looking at the number of physicians who’ve opted out of Medicare here in Dallas. Slicing into CMS data, we saw that Texas docs have submitted 169 opt-out affidavits, bested in the state of Texas only by Houston. Merritt Hawkins helps us put those two cities within a national context. Among the 15 major markets they surveyed last year, Houston and Dallas are dead last and second-to-dead last, respectively. As you’ll see in the chart, Dallas’ Medicare acceptance rate sits… Full Story