Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Tom Suehs today notified Governor Rick Perry of his intention to retire on Aug. 31. In his three years in the position, Suehs oversaw dramatic improvements in the handling of applications for benefits and obtained federal approval to transform Medicaid payments to hospitals.
“Thank you for the opportunity to serve our great state in a position that touches the lives of every Texan,” Suehs wrote in a letter to the Governor. “It has truly been an honor and a privilege.”
As commissioner, Suehs oversees the state’s five health and human services agencies, which have combined budgets of $30 billion a year and 55,000 employees. Gov. Perry appointed Suehs to the role in September 2009.
Suehs, who has 26 years of experience in state government, served as deputy executive commissioner for financial services at the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) from 2003 until his appointment as executive commissioner. He also served as the deputy commissioner of the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation and associate commissioner of the Texas Department of Human Services. He is a former executive director of the Texas Health Care Association and past president of the American Society of State Health Care Executives.
Under Suehs’ leadership:
- Texas became one of the top performing states in the nation when it comes to processing applications for SNAP food benefits, Medicaid and other programs. When Suehs took over as executive commissioner, Texas was processing less than 60 percent of SNAP applications within federal standards. Today, the state processes 99 percent of SNAP applications on time, and Texas received a $6.2 million federal bonus last summer for achieving one of the highest payment accuracy rates in the nation.
- The state obtained approval to replace an archaic federal hospital funding system with one built around local solutions that rewards hospitals for patient care and innovation. Under the Texas Medicaid waiver, hospitals will be eligible for funding to help offset uncompensated care and fund projects that address local health needs. This increases local control over Medicaid dollars and makes the payment process more transparent so that taxpayers can see exactly how their money is being used. The end result is a Medicaid program that rewards performance and makes better use of tax dollars.
- HHSC expanded the use of Medicaid managed care, which helps control costs while improving coordination of services, to South Texas and rural areas of the state. Texas also moved Medicaid dental and pharmacy services under managed care.
- Texas entered an innovative partnership with local food banks that provides families with faster assistance and reduced the workload on state offices. Under the partnership, food banks can help families complete an application and interview for food benefits, and state workers process the completed applications.
Suehs is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Bob Bullock Award for Outstanding Public Stewardship; the Better Life Award from the Texas Health Care Association for improving services to citizens who are elderly or have disabilities; the Administrator of the Year from the Texas Public Employee Association of Texas for improving the working conditions of HHSC employees; and the Eddie Garcia Partnership Award from the Texas Food Bank Network for efforts to fight hunger.
Suehs serves on the board of the International Orthodox Christian Charities, the worldwide humanitarian aid organization of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops. In addition, he is a member of the Order of Saint Andrew, Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, whose fundamental goal is preserving religious freedom and human rights.