Travis County Commissioners delayed today's scheduled vote on the proposed fiscal year 2018-19 budget and tax rate for Central Health, the county's health care district. The decision follows a Sept. 12 vote by Central Health's board of managers to allocate $24 million to its nonprofit health care plan Sendero Health Plans under the condition that it would wind down operations over the next two years.

“This is not just a matter of economics," Central Health CEO Mike Geeslin said. "The board of managers did not just step back and make a money decision—which they have to make—without taking into account how this would affect the members, the patients and the people currently receiving care or that may need care."

More than a dozen Travis County residents—many of whom said they or a family member use the health care coverage that is potentially at stake—provided public testimony at commissioner's court today.

"Health care is out of control everywhere in this country, and we know that there are really gut-wrenching stories about what happens when people lose their coverage," said Commissioner Gerald Daugherty, who participated via videoconference. "I do think that Sendero provides a wonderful program for people and a very needed program, but it is a number and cents thing, and you have to consider if it's sustainable."

While the Travis County Commissioners are responsible for approving Central Health's annual budget, the decision of whether to continue Sendero Health Plans rests with the health care district's board of managers, County Judge Eckhardt said.

“We have influence as political figures, but we don’t have the responsibility of the decision," Eckhardt said. "This is a difficult decision where reasonable minds will passionately differ.”

Central Health plans to hold an additional meeting this week—though a time and date have not yet been specified—and the board might reconsider the vote to dissolve Sendero, Geeslin said.

“The issues of health care are complex and very emotional,” Eckardt said. “There are no hard hearts here, only hard decisions.”


Travis County early voting and election day polling locations announced
Today, commissioners approved voting locations for the November 6, 2018 general election. A list of early voting centers is available on Travis County's website. In addition, a list of election day voting locations is available online.

First of two public hearings on the proposed tax rate held today
The proposed tax rate—35.42 cents per $100 of taxable value—is 3.81 percent over the effective tax rate. Residents could see, on average, a $31.77 increase in the county’s portion of property taxes, or around $2.65 per month. The county held its first of two required public hearings on the tax rate today. The second is scheduled for Sept. 21 at 9 a.m., 700 Lavaca Street, Austin.