Texas health insurance outreach program closes, see primary source docs on meetings funded with the money

By   /   January 31, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Steve Miller | Texas Watchdog

AUSTIN — When the announcement came down that the state was shuttering the Texas Consumer Health Assistance Program after its federal grant money expired, there was a collective tsk-tsk and reports of dismissed employees and blaming the congressional gridlock for “leaving smaller entities, such as the TCHP, in the front line to be cut.”

The announcement also came with a telling statistic: The office was opened with a $2.8 million federal grant, hosted 160 events around the state and fielded 6,000 calls to its hotline.

Audrey Selden, senior associate commissioner for consumer protection at the Texas Department of Insurance, which oversees the program, told a Washington Post reporter that “the grant provided us with the opportunity to … actually take the 20 or 30 minutes, or however long, to help someone complete an application.”

Few knew of the program until it was gone. But at a cost of $466 a call, there was some critique andquestioning.

The reports of the closing also noted that the grant provided for the hiring of nine employees, who moved about the state telling people of the health insurance options here.

But the state didn’t exactly hire nine employees. The operation, overseen by TDI, was administered by Selden, a Harvard lawyer who was not a new hire but has been with the state since 1994, according to records. She receives a salary of $145,653.

The office also had its own director, Aelia Khan-Akhtar, according to this document. Khan-Akhtar makes $74,421 and has been with the state at least since September 2010 as part of the state’sTechnical Advisory Committee on Claims Processing.