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Jim Guidry Commentaries
Harris County
Houston-Galveston Area Council Board of Directors
by Jim Guidry
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Houston-Galveston Area Council Board of Directors today voted unanimously to approve a list of appointments by H-GAC Chair Delores Martin, who is mayor of Manvel.  Darrell Morrison is chair of the Finance and Budget Committee, Nate McDonald is chair of the Plans and Projects Review Committee, Todd Fontenot is chair of the Water Resources Committee, Craig Doyal is chair of the Election Committee, Brandon Capetillo is chair of the Planning Committee, Ken Clark is chair of the Health Care Policy Committee, Carolyn Bilski is chair of the Legislative Committee and Terry Henley is chair of the Audit Committee.

The board authorized H-GAC staff to negotiate contracts with recommended applicants for FY2012-2013 solid waste management grants. Listen: MP3 RealPlayer

“This is a program that we have been in for a long time but this year is a bit different,” said Jeff Taebel, director of Community and Environmental Planning.  “In the last legislative session the amount of funding available to us to distribute to local governments for grants was reduced by about 50 percent.”

All other action items on the agenda were approved. Agenda

All votes were unanimous.  Colorado County Judge Ty Prause, Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark, Deer Park Council Member Beckie Stockstill-Cobb, Friendswood Council Member Michael Barker, Huntsville Mayor Mac Woodward, La Porte Council Member Chuck Engelken, Jr. and Dickinson Council Member Kerry Neves were absent and not represented by alternate members.  Houston Mayor Annise Parker was absent but was represented by Council Member Ellen Cohen, Galveston Mayor Joe Jaworski was represented by Council Member Dianna Puccetti and Missouri City Council Member Bobby Marshall was represented by Council Member Floyd Emery.

Executive Director Jack Steele and Chief Operating Officer Steve Howard reported to the board on the State Medicaid Waiver program. Listen: MP3  RealPlayer

“This is a state-initiated effort to begin to transform the Medicaid Program in the state of Texas,” Howard explained.  “Medicaid is essentially the federal insurance program providing health care for low income persons.”

Howard said that the state provides matching funds to draw down the federal funds for the program.

“During the last legislative session, the state directed the Health and Human Services Commission to develop a managed care program to provide services under Medicaid,” Howard said.  “When they do that, Medicaid rules prevent the state - in large hospitals who provide the bulk of uncompensated care – from receiving a particular form of Medicaid payment, which is very significant to these large hospitals.”

Thus, Howard said Texas requested and received a waiver to continue payments under a restructured system.

Harris County Judge Ed Emmett asked Harris County Hospital District President and CEO David Lopez to explain the procedure he is using to deal with the waiver procedure and how it impacts the various counties.

“This came from the state,” Emmett said.  “This was not initiated by the Harris County Hospital District and H-GAC was just one of the entities named - UTMB was named – and this map before you has been floating around for a little while.  But that came from the state too.”

“Let me just say at the onset, that the state has provided us some guidance, but not very definitive guidance,” Lopez said.  “What they have said is, we are not going to mandate counties to work together.  What they provided was a map with an idea of how to divide the state.  What they said was, ‘whatever you feel comfortable with, then we are comfortable as well.”  

Lopez assured the elected officials that whatever money each county provides as matching funds in the Medicaid program will remain in that county; it will not be used to fund needs in other counties.

“Harris County will do an IGT (intergovernmental transfer) for Harris County,” he said.  “The counties that have IGTs that they provide – that money in full, in total, stays in that community.  It does not come to fund the needs in Harris County nor do our funds go to fund the needs of other counties.”




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