Schwertner to Lead Health and Human Services Committee

Sen. Charles Schwertner R-Georgetown speaks about health care in Texas at February 27th TribLive
Sen. Charles Schwertner R-Georgetown speaks about health care in Texas at February 27th TribLive

After appointing Republican state Sen. Jane Nelson to chair the Senate Finance Committee, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has picked state Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, to replace her as the head the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Dewhurst revealed that he would be tapping Schwertner, a practicing orthopedic surgeon, to lead the committee on Thursday evening during an interview that aired on Time Warner Cable News' nightly political show Capital Tonight.

“As a physician who treats patients on a daily basis, I’m eager for the opportunity to use my firsthand experience to help build a healthier Texas and create the kind of patient-centered health care system that’s affordable for consumers, accessible for families and accountable to taxpayers," Schwertner said in a statement.

Schwertner takes over the committee as it considers ways to better coordinate the state's various women's health care programs to improve access after the Republican-led Legislature slashed funding for family planning services during the 2011 legislative session and then restored some of it in 2013 by way of new programs.

The committee's interim charges also include reviewing the Department of Family and Protective Services' efforts to reduce child fatalities, identifying alternatives to expanding eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, and monitoring the implementation of programs meant to improve mental health and substance abuse services.

Schwertner also serves on the state's Sunset Advisory Commission, which is currently reviewing ways to improve the state's various health agencies. Legislation to implement any recommendations and make sweeping changes to the agencies or the programs they oversee are expected to come out of the Sunset review process and be vetted by the Health and Human Services Committee when the 84th Legislature convenes in January 2015.

Earlier today, Dewhurst also appointed Schwertner to the Senate Finance Committee. Schwertner was first elected to the Texas Senate in 2012, previously serving in the state House of Representatives for two years.