(Austin) – Central Health plans to spend 12.4% more on health care for people with low income in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 compared to this year, according to the budget approved Sept. 18 by the healthcare district’s Board of Managers.
The $290.8 million FY20 budget and tax rate must be approved by the Travis County Commissioners Court for it to take effect Oct. 1.
“Last year Central Health funded care for 1 in 7 Travis County residents, or about 184,000 people, and we’re planning to care for more people in the years to come, “said Mike Geeslin, president and CEO of Central Health. “We’re excited about the opportunities to work with our partners and the communities we’re privileged to serve. By continuing our approach of sustainability and focusing on access to care, we’ll make a difference in peoples’ lives.”
Central Health Priorities
Next year’s budget prioritizes access to care, which includes outreach to underserved populations and improving health coverage programs.
Technology enhancements will create an electronic consultation (e-consult) system that allows primary care doctors and specialty physicians to connect virtually, making appointments and referrals easier for patients. Digital urgent care will allow patients to text symptoms or send a picture, then get a diagnosis and a prescription without having to sit in a waiting room.
The focus on access to all types of care includes continuing to expand health care services in Eastern Travis County – opening new clinics while beginning long-term planning for larger, more comprehensive health and wellness centers. Central Health will also enhance the Medical Access Program (MAP) by making enrollment easier and covering more people. The board has also asked to prioritize extending MAP eligibility from 6 to 12 months.
Demand for care is expected to continue to increase annually. In FY19, an estimated 592,521 primary care visits are expected, which would be a net increase of 50,585 over FY18.
“We’re looking for new sources of revenue, while we find ways to be more efficient with the funds that we have,” said Dr. Guadalupe Zamora, Central Health board chair and long-time East Austin physician. “Most of our funding comes from Travis County property taxes, and always will. However, next year we’ll generate nearly $14 million leasing land, like the former University Medical Center Brackenridge property. And this board committed to spending $30.7 million more to provide health care for people with low income because we believe everyone should have the opportunity to live healthier lives.”
Central Health expects to pay for 50,000 more primary care visits next year than the 600,000 visits funded in FY19, most through Central Health-funded CommUnityCare Health Centers, which operates 25 clinics throughout Travis County.
Central Health still maintains the lowest tax rate of any major urban Texas hospital district, which has been the case since the healthcare district’s creation in 2004. The Central Health Board of Managers recently approved an FY20 maximum tax rate of 6.9% over what the State of Texas now calls the “no new revenue rate,” previously known as the effective tax rate. By law, the board could have approved a tax rate as high as 8% over the no new tax rate. The no new revenue rate is the rate that generates the same amount of tax revenue as the previous year, without consideration for new construction. For a Travis County home with an average taxable homestead value of $347,655 in 2019, the annual increase will be approximately $23.07, or about $2 a month. The annual tax bill would come to about $367. Central Health offers a 20% homestead exemption for residents, the maximum allowed by state law, and an $85,500 exemption for residents over 65 and for those with disabilities.
The Travis County Commissioners Court has final authority on Central Health’s budget, and will consider final approval on Sept. 24. The Central Health Board of Managers will adopt the property tax rate Sept. 25, which is expected to be approved by Travis County Commissioners Oct. 1.
To learn more about the budget visit www.centralhealth.net/finance/fy-2020-budget.