Denton hopeful about new health secretary; says Audrey Haynes must avoid 'pizza party' mentality

04/11/2012 07:55 AM

Managers is the department that oversees social workers tried to address morale problems with a pizza party — a move indicative of the disconnect between cabinet leaders and the needs of front line workers and the Kentuckians they serve, said state Sen. Julie Denton.

Denton, a Louisville Republican who chairs the Senate health and welfare committee, said middle managers in the department of community based services have been “running amuck.” And she said the most important first move for newly-appointed Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Audrey Haynes is to make strong hires to head up that department and the Medicaid department.

“If you don’t have the right people with the right experience, knowledge and expertise, she will be a failure,” Denton said (5:30).

Overall, Denton said in an interview last week on Pure Politics that she was hopeful about Haynes, a former Kentucky social worker who later worked as chief of staff to Tipper Gore. Haynes starts her new job Monday.

“I’m very encouraged I was allowed to meet her before she was announced,” she said (3:30). “And she’s promised me she’s going to be very much inclusive with the legislature and with the advocacy community so that we’re a team as opposed to two teams that are pitted against each other as it has been the last four years.”

Denton said she suggested the name of former Health and Cabinet Services Secretary Mark Birdwhistell, who served during Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration.

As lawmakers prepare to return to Frankfort for the 60th and final day of the 2012 session, Denton said she’s hopeful lawmakers can agree on a road funding plan and a bill aimed at prescription pill abuse.

She said the lowest moment of the session for her was an amendment to a dental and vision bill that would essentially eliminate the need for lower cost dental and vision insurance plans, Denton said last week on Pure Politics (1:00).

“When those plans go away, those patients aren’t going to get those services at a discounted rate,” she said. “For many families, it will make no sense then to carry dental insurance because those are the things that they are most getting the insurance for.”

She said it might be cheaper for families to pay out of pocket each time they get a six-month check-up at the dentist then to pay insurance premiums.

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