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Public Can Comment on Whether Texas Should Merge Its Health Agencies Into One

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT
On Dec. 10, 2014, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission voted unanimously to approve a merger of the state's five health agencies into one.

The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is recommending that all Texas health agencies be consolidated into one “mega-agency," but the move would need approval from Texas lawmakers next legislative session.

Back in 2003, Texas lawmakers passed a measure that reduced the number of health and human services agencies from 12 to five. Now, the Sunset Advisory Commission has approved merging those five agencies into one.

A December 2014 commission report explains this would help administer Medicaid, for instance, and women’s health services are presently split among three programs in two agencies, so they'd be less fragmented [read a PDF of the report here].

"This consolidation does represent a monumental change to the delivery of health care services in the state and its impact on millions of lives in Texas," said State Sen. Charles Schwertner at a Dec. 10 Sunset Commission meeting. Sen. Schwertner is on the commission and chairs the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee. He says the transition will be closely monitored to ensure continuity of care.

Eileen Garcia, CEO of Texans Care for Children, said in a statement that her advocacy group is disappointed by the commission’s recommendation.

"Asking officials to spend their time building a new bureaucratic system will distract them from delivering basic services to families and implementing Sunset's other recommendations to improve efficiency," she said.

Lawmakers will debate whether they agree with this next legislative session.

The public can also have a say -- the commission is accepting written comments about the big merge through Monday, Dec. 15.