During the 2015 state legislative session, the Texas Health Services Authority (THSA) will be one of 21 state offices and agencies undergoing the biennial legislative evaluation known as the Sunset Review. The Texas Sunset Act requires that the Sunset Commission, composed of legislators and public members, periodically determine if state agencies are still needed and their allocated funds are well spent.  Based on the recommendations of the Sunset Commission, the Texas Legislature ultimately decides whether an agency continues to operate into the future. This process for THSA began last year and will culminate when the Legislature considers the Sunset Commission’s recommendations during the legislative session, which will begin January 13.

After completing an extensive organizational evaluation, Sunset staff publicly released findings in October recommending that THSA transition to an independent nonprofit organization in 2015. In the report, Sunset staff gave the THSA high marks for performance and accomplishments, and demonstrated confidence in the organization by recommending that it shift to a private, independent entity that operates without government oversight.

In November, a public hearing took place where THSA chief executive officer Tony Gilman and THSA board chair Edward Marx provided testimony to the Sunset Commission, chaired by Senator Jane Nelson. During the hearing, Sen. Nelson referenced THSA’s status as a relatively new entity. In doing so, she suggested extending the timeline for transition to a private entity to allow the agency additional and critical time to build on its momentum. She applauded the organization’s efforts and success in building the state’s HIE infrastructure and wanted to make sure that the removal of the state’s role was not premature.

In December, the Commission voted on the staff’s recommendations. The Commission’s vote extended the THSA’s transition timeline to an independent, private organization until September 1, 2021. The Commission also added new recommendations regarding the makeup of the THSA’s board of directors, including adding two ex-officio members to represent state health agencies acting as data sources, and another member to represent local health information exchanges collectively. It also confirmed that the agency would continue operations without the need for state appropriations during the next biennium.

Looking ahead, the Commission’s recommendation will be filed as a bill for consideration by the full Texas Legislature during the upcoming session and may be amended throughout the legislative process.

In response to the Commission’s actions, Gilman stated, “I am very pleased with the actions taken by the Sunset Commission which reinforce the confidence that the commission has shown in the THSA by recommending we ultimately continue in the private sector without government oversight beginning in 2021.”

Tony Gilman: Highlights of Texas’ 84th Legislative Session