Voters to decide whether to raise Central Health tax rate with Proposition 1 on November ballot

Proposition 1 asks voters whether to raise the tax rate of Central Health, the Travis County Healthcare District, from 7.8946 cents to 12.9 cents per $100 of valuation.

According to the ballot, the funds will be used toward improving health care in the county, including support for a new medical school; a site for a new teaching hospital; trauma services; specialty medicine such as cancer care; communitywide health clinics; training for physicians, nurses and other health care professionals; primary care; behavioral and mental health care; prevention and wellness programs; and/or obtaining federal matching funds for services.

If approved, a taxpayer with an average homestead assessed at $214,567 would see a tax increase of about $107.

The Central Health board of managers placed the proposition on the ballot in part to afford projects that could be assisted by federal funds from the 1115 Medicaid Waiver.

This waiver is intended to encourage the creation of new projects to improve how health care is delivered locally while still reimbursing hospitals for treating low-income patients. As part of the waiver, the federal government will match $1.46 for every dollar that is locally generated.

Central Health is in the first year of the five-year waiver, with significant changes expected in years two through five.

Central Health officials said that waiver money cannot go toward the construction of a new medical school but will likely fund services there.

A simple way of thinking of the waiver is that one stream of federal money is getting split into two buckets, said Jeff Knodel, Central Health director of regional health care partnership. The first bucket is a revised version of the same supplemental funds hospitals already receive. The second bucket contains the funds that Central Health will use to improve how it delivers care.

During the summer, health care providers submitted draft projects to Central Health. Central Health helped shape the projects and evaluated them based on need, feasibility and admissibility, said Sarah Cook, Central Health director of business development.

Central Health is scheduled to send a final project plan to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission by Nov. 30 regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Once the plan is approved by the federal government, Central Health will send local tax dollars to the state to participate in the match. The providers must meet predetermined performance targets and will then receive the matched funds.

By Joe Olivieri
Joe covered Southwest Austin news for Community Impact Newspaper from January 2011 to April 2015. His reporting focused on new businesses, development, transportation, industry and Travis County issues. He was named the paper's managing editor in April 2015. Joe hails from New Jersey.


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