Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek is bringing right wing ideology to the HHSC. A recent personnel move highlights this, Conservative health care expert is Janek’s ‘special adviser’.
The former vice president for health care policy at an Austin-based, conservative think tank has become Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek’s “special adviser,” concentrating on two urgent and thorny social services issues.
Mary Katherine Stout, who also served as budget and policy director to Gov. Rick Perry in recent years, is working for Janek on ideas for overhauling the state-federal Medicaid health insurance program for the poor, elderly and disabled, Stephanie Goodman, a spokeswoman for the Health and Human Services Commission, said Thursday.
From Stout’s work history of the announcement about her joining Gov. Rick Perry’s staff in 2008.
Prior to joining the Foundation in February 2005, Stout worked for then-Chair Diane Rath at the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), where Stout served as policy analyst and handled issues among the two-dozen TWC programs including TANF and child care.
Stout previously worked for the Texas Conservative Coalition and the Texas Conservative Coalition Research Institute (TCCRI), working closely with the TCCRI task forces on fiscal policy, health and human services, and school finance reform.
Additionally, Stout worked as a policy analyst at the Texas Legislative Council and in the office of former Louisiana Governor Mike Foster.
Stout received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Texas A&M University.
In other words she bounced back-and-forth between the government bureaucracy and the corporate bureaucracy of right-wing think tanks her whole career. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se. Her expertise is in gutting government as a ideological political hack. This Andrea Grimes post points out, referenced in the above DMN article, Stout’s boss Kyle Janek is trying to use his best political spin, in a misguided attempt to discredit the how many uninsured adults there are in Texas.
Because Kyle Janek doesn’t believe—despite credible, widely accepted evidence to the contrary—that one of Texas’ most pressing health problems, its high number of uninsured adults, is real.He doesn’t believe that more than a quarter of Texans are uninsured, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau. He told a Texas Tribune reporter in early October that he believed that number to be “inflated,” and then reiterated his point in an extended interview with Tribune editor Evan Smith on October 31st. (Through his press representatives, he refused an interview with RH Reality Check.) Here’s his most recent take via the Tribune:
“It’s not that I don’t believe those numbers. I don’t believe the reasoning for those numbers.”
Janek’s problem: he said the Census Bureau only takes a “snapshot” by asking people if they’re uninsured, and doesn’t ask them if they had insurance in the past or if they think they have a job lined up with insurance in the future. Janek must not be aware that for nearly 25 years, the Census Bureau’s “snapshot” has shown practically the same thing: since 1987, Texas repeatedly has one of the highest, or the very highest, number of uninsured adults in the country. That rate has not been below 1987’s 23 percent; it peaked at 26.8 percent in 2009 and is currently estimated at 26.2 percent.
That’s a remarkably consistent snapshot of something that Janek seems to believe changes for millions of people by the day. Janek says he isn’t sure why Texas “is different” when it comes to health care, but he told the Tribune it could be because the weather here is nice.
“Do we have so many people that are temporarily uninsured? Or is it the general climate of better weather and glorious place to live? Folks come here, and that attracts more folks with health care needs or disabilities?” he wondered during the interview. Surely our high uninsured numbers couldn’t be due to the fact that Texas jobs generally don’t provide health insurance, that Medicaid in the state is limited, that insurance rates are unregulated or that Texas has a large immigrant population, as the Washington Postreported last year. No, it’s probably just the purty weather.
I called Dr. John Holcomb, a pulmonologist who chairs the Texas Medical Association’s committee on Medicaid, to find out what he makes of Janek’s stance. (Spoiler alert: the TMA’s official position is that “Texas is the uninsured capital of the United States.”) Holcomb told me that Janek’s comments are “a perfect example of how Dr. Janek is not ready for prime time.”
Holcomb told me that while Janek is a “very good speaker” and “very articulate,” when it comes to uninsured rates in Texas, “everyone knows exactly what those numbers are.” They aren’t inflated. They’re real. They’re accepted by public health professionals all over the state, including Dr. Janet Realini, the president of unplanned pregnancy prevention group Healthy Futures of Texas. Realini has been a vocal supporter of maintaining the Medicaid Women’s Health Program and a critic of the state’s and the HHSC’s cuts and changes to money-saving family planning programs.
And Grimes goes on to say this about Stout’s new position.
Her name is Mary Katherine Stout, and for $150,000 per year, the former Perry staffer, Wal-Mart defender and far-right Texas Public Policy Foundation economics “expert” will act as a “special advisor,” “involved in a number of policy and planning issues,” according to HHSC spokesperson Stephanie Goodman. Goodman toldRH Reality Check that Stout will be “looking at ways [Texas HHSC] can work with medical schools to support their efforts to make sure Texas has enough health professionals.”
In the past, Stout has particularly focused her efforts on criticizing Medicaid and especially CHIP, the popular children’s Medicaid program, which she has said is rife with luxury car-driving freeloaders and should be closed to people who are verily rolling in cash and furs, like “those making as much as $40,000 annually for a family of four.” Stout’s coldness is unusual even for Texas right-wingers, and her cruel preoccupation with making sure as few Texas children as possible receive needed aid borders on the bizarre. To that end, this was her 2007 proposal for fighting “The Left” in the National Review:
Perhaps we should fight their strategy with our own campaign to tell stories of success, of people working hard and making good decisions for their family, of people who made something out of nothing, or who turned something into more. Yes, send me your stories of success, of personal responsibility, and of government’s depredations on a family trying to make ends meet.
These are the words of a “special advisor” on Texas public health care policy, who’ll be whispering in the ear of a man who believes the state has “inflated” uninsured numbers because hey, poor people can always go walk in and get some open heart surgery at a public hospital or amorphous medical school of dubious funding origin.
That’s all just the same 40 year old false right wing rhetoric regarding people in poverty. To see why that tired rhetoric is so wrong see this recent post, The tough choices families must make on a daily basis.
No one should fool themselves that the current leaders of our government in Texas, the far right of the Texas GOP, is going to use government to help the people of Texas. They want to privatize government and make sure their campaign donors can profit from taxpayers. That’s what their version of the “free market” ideology has become. This is just more of the same. People like this who think government is the problem, will never come up with government solutions to help people. And if we keep electing them nothing is going to change.