AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Rick Perry appointed two men Monday to key posts in the Health and Human Services Commission following recent high-level departures.
Perry named former state lawmaker Dr. Kyle Janek as commissioner of the state’s largest agency, which oversees the state’s provision of health care for the poor, services for the disabled and the state health department.
Janek was elected to the Texas House in 1994 as a Houston Republican, and won election to the Texas Senate in 2003. He retired from elected office in 2008 and now lives in Austin, where he is an anesthesiologist and has lobbied on medical malpractice insurance issues and on behalf of the American Cancer Society.
Current Commissioner Tom Suehs announced last month that he was retiring after three years in the job. Janek takes over as state spending on Medicaid — the health insurance program for the poor and disabled — skyrockets, and Perry is demanding a cut in state spending.
In order to balance the budget last year, Perry signed a budget that underfunded Medicaid by $4.8 billion, an amount that must be made up next year.
State Medicaid Director Billy Millwee is also retiring this summer, and Perry promoted Chris Traylor to replace him. Traylor is currently the commissioner of the Department of Aging and Disability Services, a post he’s held since 2010.
“Texas, like the rest of the country, is headed into a period of the most significant changes in health care in our history,” Perry said in a written statement. “This new leadership team, with Kyle and Chris at the helm, combines unparalleled experience and expertise to ensure Texans continue to have access to the health care they need while implementing fiscal policies that are mindful that it’s taxpayer money they are spending.”
In May, Suehs told lawmakers that Medicaid alone could add $10 billion to the state budget when they meet again in January. Perry has said he will not sign a budget that increases state spending, and he asked all agency chiefs to submit budgets with a possible 10 percent reduction in spending.
Democrats have called on lawmakers to close tax loopholes to fund critical health and education needs. They have also called for Texas to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act to save money, a move that Perry has rejected.
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