May 4, 2023
(Tuesday) On Tuesday, May 2, 2023 Central Health received from Ascension Texas (formerly known as Seton Healthcare Family) a notice of Governance and Funding Deadlock under the terms of the 2013 Master Agreement between the two parties.
“We will not be distracted by this latest legal maneuver,” said Mike Geeslin, Central Health president and CEO. “We have a pending lawsuit against Ascension in court, and this is our focus. No amount of distraction reduces the real issue at hand, which is Ascension not providing the level of services it is contractually obligated to provide.”
In January—after years of trying in good faith to resolve disputes with Ascension without court intervention—Central Health sued Ascension for material and other breaches of the Master Agreement and associated Omnibus Agreement. These breaches included, for example, Ascension not providing the healthcare services it agreed to provide Travis County residents with low income, including patients enrolled in Central Health’s Medical Access Program (MAP). These breaches presented themselves in various ways over the years, including with Ascension capping, reducing, and even eliminating services for MAP patients. Now, in its court pleading and in the deadlock notice it sent to Central Health on May 2, Ascension faults Central Health for stepping up to fill gaps in healthcare, including gaps that Ascension itself has created.
Ascension’s own data show that, for years, Ascension has failed to provide healthcare service at the levels called for by the 2013 agreements.
- In the 2022 contract year, Ascension served approximately 9,000 fewer MAP/Charity Care patients compared with the 2013 contract year, reflecting roughly a 21% reduction.
- In that same year, MAP/Charity Care patient encounters in the hospital –including inpatient and outpatient services and emergency room visits – dropped by 31,000 compared to 2013, reflecting roughly a 33% reduction.
Ascension’s latest tactic isn’t new; it had sent an initial, faulty deadlock notice back in August 2020, after which Central Health sent Ascension a notice of breach. “That triggered a lengthy dispute resolution process that both Ascension and Central Health exhausted without making progress on the core issues,” said Geeslin. This left Central Health with no alternative but to ask the court to establish once and for all that Ascension has been in contractual breach for years.
Since Central Health was formed in 2004, it has been clear that the hospital and specialty care system in Travis County has not been meeting the needs of our residents with low income whom Central Health is both obligated and honored to serve. Central Health’s current Healthcare Equity Plan, adopted last year, further highlighted critical safety net healthcare gaps. Ascension agreed in 2013 to rise to the challenge and meet the needs of the community, and it has had time to honor those commitments.
“If Ascension doesn’t intend to deliver the care our patients need, then Central Health will do everything necessary to hold Ascension accountable, and we must consider different options about care collaboration going forward,” said Dr. Charles Bell, chairperson of the Central Health Board of Managers.
Learn more about Central Health’s case against Ascension at healthcarejusticefortraviscounty.org