Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

January 2nd, 2005:

Belated first baby story

So we do get a first baby of the year story after all.

Nearly 30 years ago Maria Ramon missed being a New Year’s Day baby by two days.

On Saturday, with her third child, she did not miss. Omar Salgado, born at 1:38 a.m. Saturday, was the first baby born at a major hospital in Houston in 2005.

A big boy, Omar measured 20 inches and weighed 8 pounds and 6 ounces when he was announced into the world at Ben Taub Hospital.

“I’m just happy that he was born healthy,” Ramon, 28, said Saturday morning through a translator. “That he was born on the first day of the year, that is just as well.”

Welcome to the world, Omar Salgado.

Hutchison on CHIP

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison doesn’t attack Governor Perry in her op-ed piece on restoring CHIP funds. She doesn’t even mention him. She didn’t have to. Look at this quote:

CHIP requires cooperation between the state and federal government. In 2005, for example, for every dollar the state puts into CHIP, the federal government will provide $2.65 in matching funds. (This program is particularly beneficial to state health systems, because the match is greater than Medicaid. For every state Medicaid dollar, the federal government supplies $1.56.)

I’m concerned that, despite the best efforts of our congressional delegation, Texas has not maximized its use of CHIP to support our state health care system. Since 2000, Texas has turned back about $700 million in unused federal funds to the U.S. Treasury, and those funds are now being used by other states, to help their working families pay for health insurance. In the recently ended fiscal year, the Congressional Research Service estimates Texas turned back more than $50 million in unused federal funds.

This money should be used to assist our county hospitals and the property taxpayers who fund them. Dr. Ray Perryman, an economist, has concluded that whenever Texas fails to take full advantage of Medicaid and CHIP, the state’s economy is weakened. For every state dollar removed from these plans, he notes, local taxes must rise by 51 cents, insurance premiums on those with coverage must rise by about $1.33, and retail sales decline by almost two dollars. Perryman suggests the state treasury is also an ultimate loser, because the decreased economic activity causes a drop in state tax revenue.

As a matter of simple fiscal conservatism, I hope Texas will, in the future, take full advantage of available federal matching funds to bolster our state health care system, and relieve increasing pressure on taxpayers who fund county hospitals. CHIP, given the available federal match, makes sense for our children’s health and economic sense for our taxpayers.

So she’s saying that the loss of federal matching funds that resulted when CHIP was cut in the 78th Legislative session was like a tax increase on all Texans. Anyone else think we’re seeing a primary campaign theme being taken out for a test drive?

UPDATE: Greg suggests what the Democratic response to KBH should be.

Chron investigates Gregg Phillips

The Chron has a long and detailed story about the tenure of former Health and Human Services Director Gregg Phillips, who was responsible for overseeing the transition of much HHS work to private firms. Phillips, who helped write the infamous HB 2292 which legislated the HHS changes, had connections to some of the firms that stood to gain multimillion dollar contracts from the state.

When Deputy Health and Human Services Commissioner Gregg Phillips and private consultant Chris Britton helped write the $1 billion legislation to privatize Texas’ human services system, they apparently did so partly with an eye on profit — their own.

A Houston Chronicle investigation into the activities of Britton, Phillips and Texas Workforce Commission Executive Director Larry Temple found weaknesses in Texas ethics laws concerning conflicts of interests and cronyism. Their relationships and how they benefited from state business illustrate how Texas law has overlooked the power of lower-level bureaucrats who are often charged with crafting laws.

Current laws force state agency chiefs to disclose their financial interests but do not apply to their subordinates.

And a private consultant such as Britton can help write a state law, then try to profit from it without being subject to either the state’s lobby-registration laws or revolving-door prohibitions.

The investigation found that:

•Britton’s company joined with one founded by Phillips to get a $670,000 state contract in January 2004 from the Workforce Commission, a state agency run by Temple, one of Phillips’ longtime friends.
•Phillips once headed the human services system in Mississippi, where legislators criticized him for giving a major state contract to a company, then going to work for the firm. In Texas, Phillips played a role in a major state contract going to another former employer in 2003.
•Phillips also apparently helped a business partner, Paige Harkins, get work advising companies on how to win Texas human services privatization contracts that he could influence. On at least one occasion, records indicate Harkins set up a meeting between Phillips and potential state vendors.
•Britton’s consulting company explored bidding on state contracts that were mandated by legislation primarily drafted by himself and Phillips during the 2003 Legislature.

What annoys me about this article is that it should have been written last year, when Phillips was poised to take control of HHS. His track record was well known, just not well covered. Look at this bit from the Chron story:

But Phillips left as the head of the Mississippi Department of Human Services in 1995 under fire from the Legislature for his management of the state welfare programs. Lawmakers later that year accused him of ethics violations.

As human services director, Phillips had given an $875,000 state contract to a company that he went to work for when he left state government.

“Mr. Phillips’ actions create the appearance of impropriety, facilitating an erosion of the public trust,” said the Mississippi Joint Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review.

You’ll find that last quote right here. A blog called The Gunther Concept dug it up. Look at the questions he was asking in June of 2003 here:

How much business will Enterject, Inc. receive as a result of [the proposed changes to HHS]?

Does Gregg Phillips still have any role with Enterject, Inc.?

Will he immediately start working for Enterject when he eventually leaves his current position?

Is there anyone out there who thinks this is a conflict of interest?

Why does’t anyone know about this?

Looks like those questions are just getting answered now. Too bad more people weren’t asking those questions back then.

More on Gregg Phillips can be found here, here, here, and here.