Cen­tral Health OKs $26M for Sen­dero

But the pro­gram must meet cer­tain con­di­tions to re­ceive the fund­ing.

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Luz Moreno-Lozano lm­lozano@ac­n­news­pa­pers.com

Shortly af­ter re­scind­ing its de­ci­sion to shut down its non­profit health in­sur­ance provider, Cen­tral Health’s board voted Sat­ur­day to al­lo­cate $26 mil­lion for Sen­dero Health Plans and keep the pro­gram in op­er­a­tion for at least one more year.

But it must meet cer­tain con­di­tions to re­ceive the fund­ing, which in­clude strict re­port­ing with ex­plicit out­come mea­sures and ob­jec­tives pro­vided to Cen­tral Health each month, and cap­ping fu­ture Cen­tral Health fi­nan­cial risk to in­clude only pre­mium as­sis­tance for Sen­dero.

Sat­ur­day’s vote re­versed the board’s Sept. 12 de­ci­sion to start wind­ing down the pro­gram, which pro­vides its IdealCare plan through the Af­ford­able Care Act and ben­e­fits about 24,000 low-in­come Travis County res­i­dents. The de­ci­sion was based largely on Sen­dero’s fi­nan­cial prob­lems; the pro­gram has re­ported losses year af­ter year since it was cre­ated in 2011.

Travis County com­mis­sion­ers were set to ap­prove Cen­tral Health’s $258 mil­lion bud­get for fis­cal 2019 on Sept. 18, but many Sen­dero mem­bers tes­ti­fied and ex­pressed their dis­may at the pos­si­bil­ity of los­ing their health cov­er­age. Com­mis­sion­ers de­layed the bud­get vote to give Cen­tral Health a chance to re­con­sider fund­ing.

Cen­tral Health held a spe­cial board meet­ing Sat­ur­day to re­think Sen­dero’s fu­ture and hear from com­mu­nity mem­bers. About 50 peo­ple at­tended the meet­ing, and more than 30 spoke be­fore the board. Most spoke in fa­vor of sav­ing Sen­dero.

“I am so grate­ful to this board for giv­ing this topic so much thought and con­sid­er­a­tion, and for all of the com­mu­nity mem­bers we’ve heard from ... who are so pas­sion­ate about Sen­dero,” said Dr. Guadalupe Zamora, the chair of Cen­tral Health’s board. “We heard your pas­sion. We share your pas­sion. And like you, each of my fel­low board mem­bers is com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure ev­ery­one in our com­mu­nity has ac­cess to qual­ity health care. I be­lieve Sen­dero can do this.”

No later than June, the board must be pre­sented with a third-party fi­nan­cial pro­jec­tion for ei­ther a po­ten­tial wind-down pro­cess or the con­tin­u­a­tion of the non­profit.

Cen­tral Health has in­vested $108 mil­lion in Sen­dero since 2011, and the pro­gram has de­liv­ered more than $470 mil­lion in health cov­er­age to 135,000 peo­ple. While the Cen­tral Health board makes a fund­ing de­ci­sion ev­ery year about the health in­sur­ance provider, Sen­dero’s board of di­rec­tors is re­spon­si­ble for de­ci­sions about its op­er­a­tions and fu­ture.

Sen­dero’s board is ex­pected to meet this week. Travis County’s Com­mis­sion­ers Court is ex­pected to vote Tues­day on Cen­tral Health’s bud­get, in­clud­ing fund­ing for Sen­dero.

RI­CARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMER­I­CAN-STATESMAN

Peo­ple at­tend a hear­ing on Sen­dero Health Plans on Sat­ur­day. The pro­gram ben­e­fits about 24,000 Travis County res­i­dents.

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