8/28/2009 11:22 AM
Gov. Rick Perry announced the appointment of Thomas Suehs as executive commissioner of health and human services. This is, by far, one of the most powerful appointed positions in state government. The executive commissioner oversees the vast majority of state health and human services programs for the poor and disabled and has extensive rulemaking authority. Efficient management of the state’s health care agencies is also of critical importance to the state’s fiscal health.
Suehs succeeds Albert Hawkins, who retired. Hawkins is one of the most knowledgeable people on the Texas budget, having worked for the Legislative Budget Board, as budget director for Gov. George W. Bush, and as executive commissioner. He was respected by Republicans and Democrats alike.
“Whether managing the monumental reorganization of Texas’ health and human services system beginning in 2003, or helping to coordinate the sheltering of special needs evacuees from hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, Texas has successfully taken on these enormous challenges thanks to the outstanding leadership of Albert Hawkins as commissioner of Health and Human Services, and I thank him for his years of service to the state,” Perry said. “As we move forward, I am confident that Tom will continue the trend of outstanding health and human services vision and expertise, and I am proud to welcome him to his new role as commissioner.”
Suehs has worked at the Health and Human Services Commission as deputy executive commissioner for financial services since 2003. He played a critical role in negotiating between the state and Texas hospitals during the debate over the 2005 omnibus Medicaid reform bill (SB 10). The bill tried to get more Texans insured by redirecting some hospital payments to efforts to reduce the uninsured, a prospect that required careful negotiations to reassure hospitals that such a change would adversely impact them.
Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, praised the appointment.
"I have worked with Tom for years and he is an excellent choice," she said. "His broad knowledge of the finances and management of all five Health and Human Services agencies means there will be no learning curve. He is smart, dedicated, and shows good leadership qualities."
[The quote from Sen. Nelson was added to this blog post at 4 p.m. Friday, which was a few hours after its initial posting.]