By Joe Conason

Perry’s Medicaid ‘Reforms': $500 Million Misspent With Lethal Consequences In Texas

September 5, 2011 3:56 am Category: Memo Pad, Politics 11 Comments A+ / A-

Both as governor of Texas and as the leading Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry has established himself as a critic of federal programs – and in particular as a “state’s rights” advocate who accuses Washington of gross ineptitude and waste in providing services such as health care for the poor and elderly. In his 2010 book Fed Up and his campaign speeches, Perry has often asserted that the states could perform far better if they were simply left to do the job without federal interference.

“It is through states that the American people get the job done every day,” he wrote in Fed Up, “often in spite of a deeply flawed bureaucratic federal government.” Late last year, when he was urging Texas to drop out of Medicaid altogether, he said, “We know how to deliver healthcare to more people in a less expensive way than what the federal government doe [sic]. I need more states need to stand up and say we don’t want your strings attached. We don’t want you down here telling us how to run our business.” If only Texas could operate wholly independently of federal rules, he insisted, “you will see more people in the state of Texas who will have more coverage and frankly we’ll save money at the end of the day, as will the federal government.”

Although Perry was forced to abandon that scheme when a state report showed that leaving Medicaid would cost Texas billions and leave even more Texans uninsured, he still claims that the federal government should stop trying to make sure that more Americans have health care – and that programs run solely by the states would be more efficient and effective. But the “golden teeth” Medicaid scandal in Texas, now under investigation by the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, has exposed those claims to fresh scrutiny. A Dallas TV station reported that Perry appointees have allowed tens of millions of dollars to be misspent on orthodontic braces for children who don’t need them – with huge profits for private dental clinics owned by Wall Street hedge funds.

And that is not the only aspect of Perry’s Texas record that belies his boast. One of the most embarrassing episodes during his first two terms as governor involved a plan to let private firms run Medicaid, replacing state employees. The privatization plan was an “innovation” that was supposed to save money. What it accomplished instead was to earn enormous sums for contractors like Deloitte Touch and Accenture, along with their Texas lobbyists, while costing Texas taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars – and all without achieving its most basic objectives.

Four years after the plan was implemented in 2003, the Austin American-Statesman published a thorough report on its results, and what the newspaper found was a project “in shambles.” The state had been forced to cancel its contract with the Accenture group and continue to use state employees to perform necessary work on an outdated computer system, exactly the same as before Perry’s privatization scheme began. How much had this great innovation cost the state? Approximately $500 million, not including the amount spent using the old system, at roughly $1 million a month.

Perry’s fiasco wasted more than money and time, however. As the Statesman reported, it may well have cost a 14 year-old boy named Devante Johnson his life. Left without health insurance for several months because of the Texas Medicaid enrollment bureaucracy, the Houston boy could not get treatment in time to save him from the kidney cancer that eventually killed him in March 2007.
But none of this fazed Perry at all. He went on to reappoint the Texas health and human services commissioner who had overseen the entire fiasco to another term – and then to run for president as the candidate who will reform the federal entitlement systems.

Perry’s Medicaid ‘Reforms': $500 Million Misspent With Lethal Consequences In Texas Reviewed by on . Both as governor of Texas and as the leading Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry has established himself as a critic of federal programs – and in part Both as governor of Texas and as the leading Republican presidential candidate, Rick Perry has established himself as a critic of federal programs – and in part Rating: 0

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Comments

  • DarrellTeichmer

    Are you telling me that the private sector is more concerned about money than health issues. Or are you telling me Perry is an idiot concerned about getting some of the corporations profits?

  • Carole Anne

    Seems like simple math to me. Turning Medicaid over to a company who must make a profit vs the feds who must only serve those who need help the most is insane. Perry is all about getting all of the tax payers’ money that he can, spreading it liberally among his friends who will feed his greed as well. And he does all this under the guise of Christianity! I worked at a low income senior housing facility when Perry implemented this fiasco and I saw first hand how it hurt the people it was supposed to serve.

  • danw5

    Perry, like many governors, wants Medicaid money to balance his budget. Unfortunately, Perry has a very incestuous relationship with business owners.

  • EddieA

    Unfortunately, mismanagement and non-funding of Medicaid in Texas goes back many, many years, even before GWB. For instance, as documented in the Coleman Institute report “State of the States in Developmental Disabilities”, Texas has near the bottom of the list (usually in the bottom three of fifty states) in per-person funding for those with developmental disabilities (DD). This includes even those whose parents have died. Politicians in Texas have absolutely *no* regard for the living situation of The Least Among Us, and Perry fits into this history very well. Somehow, Texans’ concern about being “pro-life” does not extend to living people who are very disadvantaged. Yes, many DD people die well before their time, but nobody hears about that.

  • maxekin

    It comes to show you again religion does not belong in the White House.
    Just like the constitution said
    Mr Perry would make a better movie star instead of a President.
    he should learn to stick with the truth.
    Money is hes God.

  • DeanNasser

    Whenever you have tort reform, that deprives the injured of much needed just compensation to preserve the wealth of the rich as Perry and Texas have done the injured have no choice but to resort to Medicaid and Medicare. That is what is happening.

  • ezbuddy

    If you liked G W Bush, you’re going to like Perry. Here’s a man following in Bush’s footsteps. Bush, Sr & Jr, made more bad decisions & hurt America more than any presidents. I can plainly see how he also believes in a “trickle down theory” just as Ronald Reagan. The trouble with that is, it’s only a trickle. His pals end up with control of the faucet & everything that comes out of it.

    People may not like how things are going, but Perry will only lead us in the same direction Bush did. Did anyone notice the failure of everything Bush did with the country at the same time making such promising speeches while the rich got richer & the majority went broke? Same talk.

  • ctorres

    The more you hear about Perry, the scarier is gets. He is beginning to sound more and more like GWB. More than anything, the man sounds like a major hypocrite! It is down right frightening to think we could elect another Texas idiot to the Whitehouse! Didn’t we learn anything from having Dumya for 8 years! We don’t need another Christian hypocrite!
    “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves (Matt. 7:15).

  • jwozniak

    The man is so corrupt, he could be a pol from my home state of Pennsylvania.

  • jamakim

    Perry stated he would get rid of the EPA, which is the only check and balance left in our system. If one had to go to Court in Texas today to stop a major polluter, they would certainly lose. GW and Perry secured all judges who think like them and made it impossible for a Judge to survive that doesn’t. Once again allowing major corporations the right to strip the earth, will bear harsh consciousnesses on us all. The bible warns us of destroying the earth. If he was truly a man of God, he would look to protect the earth and man’s ability to harvest clean, pure food. How do we wake up Americans? Is this what the average person really wants? I truly hope not, however, I believe we are at a cross roads and Americans better think long and hard. I also believe it is time Democrats start getting out this year and make some loud noises instead of sitting back and complaining!

  • kurt.lorentzen

    So this is news? Politicians directing federal and state funds to businesses, lobbyists and loyalists? It should never be condoned and it needs to be stopped. But Perry has just done what every other politician has done although that’s no defense – just business as usual for our “public servants”.

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