Health advocates hope for a smooth state health consolidation

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Newly designed HHS website_342717

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas health department began a massive overhaul which will consolidate 4,000 employees and 120 departments. The goal is to create easier and faster healthcare for you.

Healthcare advocates are eagerly watching to see if everything will go smoothly as Health and Human Services moves from five department to three.

The thing you’ll notice now is a new website up for Texas Health and Human Services, designed with the goal of making it easier for people to find care faster. Behind the scenes, it will take a few years before all the reforms are finished.

“The goal of this reorganization is to make the system easier to navigate for those who rely on state services. We have been working closely with the agency to make the transition as seamless as possible,” said Senator Jane Nelson, R- Flower Mound.

These reforms came out of the “Sunset” review process, a state watchdog agency that analyses departments every few years and suggests reforms.

In 2015, lawmakers made the suggested changes reality.

Nelson was crucial in getting this “sunset bill” through the Texas legislature in 2015.

These are agencies that impact millions of Texans.

“It will license every nursing home in the state. These are entities that many families depend on and we count on them to be there,” said Amanda Fredriksen with AARP. She was worried when she first heard Texas was eliminating the department they work with every day, the Department of Aging and Disability Services. But she was reassured when she found that an “office on aging services” would still exist under the new structure, geared to improve nursing homes.

“They can find where they can get help. They know who to call. They know how to locate services. They know what’s available to them,” said Fredriksen. But how these changes will impact your daily life is yet to be seen.

“With the best of intentions and the best of planning, it’s always somewhat disruptive to re-organize programs,” said Anne Dunkelberg with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. She says this happens every decade or so and they run the risk of hiccups.

“The big concern is whether the average Texan out there who needs a birth certificate or needs to get a family member some mental health services or needs to report to Child Protective Services, that all of those things are easy to do right off the bat,” said Dunkelberg.

If all goes to plan; the only change you’ll see is a good one. Lawmakers hope they don’t jeopardize care.

There are more than 7 million children in the state of Texas. According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities and Federal data, 3.5 million Texas children are on Medicaid.

Health and Human Services oversees and regulates Medicaid.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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