5 Things Texas: Leavitt & Hellerstedt, Future of Medicaid, Post-COVID workforce


Eli Kirshbaum


The 2022 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference is less than a month away! Keep reading for a preview of some of the sessions we’ve lined up, including conversations around Medicaid’s future, behavioral health, and workforce.

Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you at the AT&T Hotel & Conference Center in Austin next month!

Eli Kirshbaum
State of Reform


1. Morning Keynote: Gov. Leavitt and Comm. Hellerstedt

We’re honored to be kicking off the 2022 Texas State of Reform Health Policy Conference with remarks from two incredibly accomplished health care leaders. Former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt and DSHS Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt will open the conference during the 8:30AM – 9:50AM Morning Keynote.

Gov. Leavitt will take the stage at 8:40AM, followed by Dr. Hellerstedt at 9:15AM. Both leaders will speak about their leadership experience in health policy and their predictions for the future of state health care. If you haven’t already, be sure to register so you can attend what is sure to be an enlightening keynote.


2. The future of Medicaid financing

Our “The future of Medicaid financing” panel will convene a group of subject experts to explore how Texas Medicaid will be financed going into the future. With waiver negotiations still up in the air, the question of how the most vulnerable Texans will access health care is one of the most pressing in state health policy.

Join Matt Ferrara, state program manager for 3M HIS, Bill Galinsky, Jr., senior policy advisor for Baylor Scott & White Health, and Stephen Palmer, principal at HMA, for an in-depth look at the options on the table for Medicaid funding and what the future of the program might look like.

3. An honest conversation about the BH system

While it’s well-known that COVID has had a considerable impact on our mental health, the lingering effects of the pandemic on many Texans’ mental health still persists. How can the state’s behavioral health system best serve the needs of the many Texans who struggle with post-COVID BH issues?

Tackling this issue at our conference will be Josh Boynton, SVP of complex health policy at CareSource, Gary Seguin, clinical and quality director at Beacon Health Options, Sonja Gaines, deputy executive commissioner of IDD & BH services at HHSC, and Christopher Taylor, PhD, founder of Taylor Counseling Group.


4. Re-thinking our workforce post-COVID

With variant-fueled COVID surges and the risk of exposure continuing to weigh on health care workers, many are leaving the profession due to burnout. These shortages have led facilities to spend more on out-of-state “traveler” nurses, defer care, and try to develop new incentives for entering the health workforce.

A group of state leaders well-affiliated with workforce issues will take up this topic at next month’s conference. During the “Re-thinking our workforce post-COVID” panel, hear insights from Stephanie Rogers, CEO of Aetna Better Health of Texas, Cindy Zolnierek, PhD, CEO of the Texas Nurses Association, and Jaeson Fournier, CEO of CommUnityCare Health Centers.

5. THA CEO encourages Medicaid expansion, waiver renewal

THA CEO John Hawkins affirmed his support for Medicaid expansion in a recent press roundtable, saying expanding the program would result in both lower costs and a healthier patient population. “[Medicaid-covered patients are] not having to seek care in an emergency room, so it’s going to be better care management in a lower cost setting than a hospital emergency room,” he said.

Though Hawkins supports expanding Medicaid, he said expansion should still be accompanied by a waiver renewal to help cover the uninsured Texans who wouldn’t be eligible for Medicaid through expansion. The waiver’s uncompensated care pool and directed payment programs, he said, would allow the state to put money into Medicaid programs and increase their historically low rates. Hawkins will be speaking on the Afternoon Keynote at next month’s conference.