September 27, 2022
$305m budget offers more healthcare access for Travis County Residents with low income
(Austin) – The Travis County Commissioners Court voted to approve Central Health’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget and tax rate Tuesday. The $305,358,237 budget includes more than $290 million for healthcare delivery, a $90.5 million increase over FY 2022 while lowering the tax rate for most Travis County taxpayers.
Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Commissioners Jeff Travillion (Precinct 1), Brigid Shea (Precinct 2), and Ann Howard (Precinct 3) voted yes to approve the tax rate and budget, while Commissioner Margaret Gomez (Precinct 4) voted against. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1, 2022.
The Commissioners Court also voted unanimously to create quarterly work sessions in the coming year with Central Health and its community-based health insurance plan, Sendero, to discuss Central Health’s planned healthcare services and related funding.
“We’re grateful to the Commissioner’s Court for approving our budget and tax rate,” said Mike Geeslin, President & CEO of Central Health. “Without their support Central Health couldn’t continue fulfilling its mission of connecting even more people with low income to care. We’re also grateful to the hundreds of residents who participated in this lengthy budget development process to ensure we are delivering the care they need, where they need it, so everyone has a chance to live healthier lives.”
Increasing Healthcare Services
Central Health’s FY 2023 budget increases year-over-year spending by $90.5 million for healthcare delivery, expanding primary, specialty, and behavioral health care, as well as substance use treatment and pharmacy services. Another significant change is that Central Health for the first time has included in its budget funding for direct healthcare services for Medical Access Program (MAP) and MAP Basic patients, largely at the Rosewood-Zaragosa multispecialty clinic opening next summer, in addition to healthcare services purchased through partners. MAP and MAP Basic are Central Health’s local coverage programs for Travis County residents with low income.
To provide these new direct services, Central Health is renovating the Rosewood-Zaragosa Clinic to serve as a state-of-the-art specialty care facility offering six specialties: podiatry, neurology, nephrology, pulmonology, cardiology, and gastroenterology.
Additionally, Central Health will open three health centers in 2023. In addition to the Rosewood-Zaragoza specialty clinic, Central Health is building two new primary care health and wellness clinics – in Del Valle and Hornsby Bend – that are scheduled to open in the fall of 2023. Central Health will continue planning for a new health and wellness center in Colony Park, while Central Health affiliate CommUnityCare is opening two new clinics, in Pflugerville and Chalmer’s Court.
Focusing on Healthcare Equity
Central Health’s budget was guided by its new Healthcare Equity Plan, which was approved by its Board of Managers in February. The plan’s main goal is to ensure that traditionally underserved populations in Travis County have the same access to quality healthcare as any other residents, and identifies existing and anticipated gaps in care, which Central Health’s FY 2023 budget directly addresses.
Input by Travis County residents, especially MAP and MAP Basic members, helped shape the Healthcare Equity Plan and the budget, as well as a thorough health needs assessment of the population served, and an assessment of Central Health’s strengths and opportunities to improve local healthcare.
Long-range Financial Planning
Central Health’s contingency reserves are an essential component of long-range financial planning. Central Health must maintain adequate levels of reserves to mitigate current and future risks such as revenue shortfalls and unanticipated expenses and ensuring stable tax rates. Reserves also impact bond ratings and borrowing costs.
“Contingency reserves are part of our long-range financial plan to ensure Central Health can serve even more patients and expand healthcare services in our community, filling gaps identified in our new Healthcare Equity Plan,” said Jeff Knodel, Central Health’s Chief Financial Officer. “Our reserve strategy is guided through established policies and recommendations of GFOA – Governmental Finance Officers Association – that has a membership of approximately 19,000 government finance officers. GFOA establishes best practices for governmental entities to implement and maintain sound organizational financial policies.”
To balance the FY 2023 budget, Central Health is spending contingency reserves as healthcare service costs outpace revenue. In the coming fiscal year, Central Health will tap its contingency reserves to offset a more than $90.5M increase in spending for healthcare delivery. In future years, reserves will fund healthcare delivery operations at the new facilities, create new service lines, make up the loss of federal funding as the Delivery System Reform Incentive Payment (DSRIP) Program ends this coming year, and fund additional specialty services at the planned Hancock Clinic.
“Without the contingency reserves Central Health would have three options in the near future – raise taxes, cut services or both,” said Dr. Charles Bell, chairperson of the Central Health Board of Managers. “Our financial planning, especially our use of reserves, will give us the ability to keep taxes as low as possible while expanding services for Travis County residents with low income.”