(Austin) – The Travis County Commissioners Court voted unanimously to approve Central Health’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget and tax rate on Tuesday, Sept. 25.
The vote came after Central Health requested a week’s delay to allow its Board of Managers an opportunity to reconsider the future of Sendero Health Plans, the health care district’s nonprofit Health Maintenance Organization (HMO).
Speaking about Sendero, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said, “I trust you. I do not seek that this commissioners court would supplant the Central Health board … when it is simply a very difficult decision made with all good intention – to not only look good, to not only feel good, but to also do good. So, if this board comes back in June and says it’s not working, I will support you.”
The FY 2019 budget is $ 258.4 million, which includes a $20.3 million increase in funding for health care delivery for Travis County residents with low income. The tax rate of 10.5221 cents per $100 of assessed property value is two percent lower than the 2018 rate of 10.7385 cents. However, due to rising home valuations, taxpayers with an average taxable homestead value of $326,895 will see a $15.67 increase (4.8 percent) on the property tax bill. The total rate includes an operating tax rate of 10.4495 cents and a debt service rate of 0.000726 cents.
“The budget is aligned with our newly adopted strategic work plan, which outlines three objectives,” Central Health President and CEO Mike Geeslin said. “Delivering health care based on people and places, implementing a patient-focused and coordinated health care system, and a financially sustainable model that people can count on now and over the long term.”
The Central Health Board of Managers held a special meeting on Saturday, Sept. 22 to reconsider the previous decision to cap funding for Sendero in 2019, which would have likely led to its exit from the insurance market. Following comments from more than 30 speakers during citizens’ communication and several hours of discussion, the board voted to allocate $26 million to Sendero in 2019, allowing the nonprofit health insurance company to remain in business for at least another year. The board approved a set of conditions that must be met to ensure further funding, including strict, explicit outcome measures and objectives reported to the Central Health Board on a quarterly basis, and limiting future Central Health funding to premium assistance for Sendero members.
Central Health will pursue a strategy of moving hundreds of Medical Access Program (MAP) members and other Central Health patients with complex illnesses and medical needs to Sendero in an effort to leverage more money through the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Risk Adjustment Program. It will be strictly voluntary for MAP members to move to Sendero, but Central Health staff will develop a program to educate MAP members of their options and the potential benefits they will receive by making the transition. Central Health will also subsidize their Sendero premiums.